Some things are best learned through experience.
I’m a firm believer in subjecting myself to the same things I put my patients through – within reason, of course. (Admittedly this would be a harder ideal to aspire to if I were a surgeon.) A few months ago I was touring the new MRI machine at the hospital where I work. While I was there the MRI technologist asked, “Hey, Dr. Sanderson, you want to get scanned?”
And I said, “Yeah!” I was on my lunch break, so I had time to do the whole brain MRI protocol. That was my first time in an MRI machine, and it was a fascinating experience. The machine was much louder than I expected, and that hole in the machine starts to feel pretty tight after about 30 minutes. Now I understand why so many patients have a hard time holding still inside the MRI scanner, and why some of them won’t even get inside it to begin with.
The MRI was one of my more recent experiences, but I have been doing things like that since medical school when my classmates and I practiced doing blood draws and ultrasound scans on one another. In residency and fellowship we would practice doing nerve conductions and electomyography, and I have long felt that a trainee should not be allowed to do needle EMG studies on patients until they have had it done on themselves.
Perhaps my most memorable experience with volunteering to have medical procedures was when I donated cerebrospinal fluid for a research study, and ended up with a post-LP headache for 10 days. At that point in my residency I had already performed dozens of lumbar punctures, and had seen several complicating headaches, but I didn’t expect it to happen to me. I didn’t complain, though, because I figured the experience would bring me good karma and would help me to understand and empathize with my patients. It also got me out of two overnight call assignments and a day of resident’s clinic. The headache wasn’t that bad, because the pain would go away completely if I laid flat for long enough. My wife and kids loved having me at home lying on the couch for 10 days, and my kids joined me for mealtimes on the floor. I read the book of Hosea a few times, and I also read most of Diagnosis of Stupor and Coma by Plum and Posner.
Mealtime on the floor with kids when I had a post-LP headache.