‘The Nicest Kids in Town’: My Complex Relationship With Medical Residents

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by Nicole Kohr |

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This week’s thoughts are inspired by one of my childhood best friends.

She lived down the street from me for most of my life. We’d drive to school together. We’d have lunch together. She’d visit me at the hospital and we’d talk about boys. Now, she’s a pediatric resident. Talk about the circle of life.

I always had a love-hate relationship with medical residents. I was born, raised, and cared for in learning hospitals. Meaning, every procedure came equipped with a set of 20-somethings staring at you, and being a survivor of a rare disease meant that every experience was an experiment.

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In my youth, every white coat scared me. In my teens, I learned to differentiate between a doctor and a student. Due to my declining health, I became annoyed by who would experiment on me and for how long. Especially if they were cocky.

“I see here that you have cystic fibrosis. How long have you had it? Does it hurt?” a resident would ask.

“You’re on an awful lot of medication. Have you tried stopping all of it and focusing on your nutrition and family time?” another resident would suggest.

I was too shy to speak up and say, “Excuse me, this is your fourth attempt to place a catheter inside of me. Maybe let your boss do it.”

In my adulthood, I’ve grown more patient — and more vocal. I’ve seen both sides of a professional work environment, so I try to empathize. On one side, the resident needs to impress their manager and learn from the experience, and a cranky patient doesn’t make that any less stressful.

On the other hand, I had one good vein in my arm, and a fourth experimental prick in that same vein would usually result in blood draws from my leg. Thirty days into a hospital stay left very little tolerance.

July was arguably the worst time to be admitted into the hospital. All frequent flyers will join me in insisting that you avoid the ER during this time because flocks of medical residents start their careers.

While I wanted to be liked and awarded “kindest patient,” making others comfortable with my situation was exhausting.

I wouldn’t show pain on my face if a blood draw wasn’t going well. I wouldn’t speak up if my chest physical therapy was too rough. It felt like it was my responsibility to make sure my care went smoothly, and sugar is better than vinegar.

Sure, things grew awkward when my high school classmates graduated to a healthcare role and had to see me naked. Having an ex-boyfriend transport you to a CAT scan was very uncomfortable. But overall, I’ve developed a huge respect for medical residents.

The song “The Nicest Kids in Town” from the musical comedy “Hairspray” reminds me of my childhood friend turned resident. Watching her in a professional setting is like watching “The Corny Collins Show.” I know darn well there were problems behind the scenes. Regardless, she wears an enormous smile to ensure the child has the best experience possible, despite her brewing anxiety.

In the end, residents have to flourish in the same situations that I did — a really awkward healthcare transaction.

So, cheers to all those who are thriving in a learning hospital, and cheers to the Tropicana and a group hug that your resident prescribed in place of your medication.

Come back every Thursday to read more of my story.

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Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.

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