You could be forgiven for thinking that medicine is a glamorous choice of career. From Holby City to House, the media portrays life as a doctor as a wonderfully sleek operation – Some sterile surgeries here, a bit of heart stopping CPR there, followed by some touching reflection on the days issues.
These were just some of my thoughts as I stood gingerely supporting the nether regions of an elderly gentleman I’d just volunteered to catheterise. A new admission to the surgical ward suffering from acute abdominal pain, he needed the whole package of hospital essentials – Canullation, pain relief and, of course, catheterisation.
For all you lucky people yet to grapple with the concept, a catheter is a big rubber tube that gets stuck into the bladder through the nearest available orifice, and is used to accurately measure fluid output. This is a pretty important measure – afterall, if your patient’s not producing fluid then something odd is going on – but it does mean that someone has to get the tube up there in the first place. That, dear readers, is where health professionals come in!
I’d been accosted earlier in the day by a friendly foundation year doctor who, understanding the plight of medical students when it comes to learning clinical skills, offered one of us the golden opportunity (hehe) to have a go at catheterising a patient under his careful supervision.
I, barely able to contain my enthusiasm (there is sadly no sarcasm there), volunteered myself and off we went to find our subject. My past experience of this particular clinical skill stemmed from one afternoon the previous week, when we were given a selection of tasteful plastic models of male and female genitalia and told the ins and outs of safely sticking tubes up them. Prepared I did not feel, but there’s got to be a first time for everything!
On finding my patient (we’ll call him Mr P) we exchanged the usual pleasantaries, before the doctor broke the news we had to stick a tube up his penis, and asked would it be ok if the medical student did it. “Alright then” grumbled Mr P. And with that we were off.
I’ll spare you the gory details, but this picture of a man tapping for maple syrup is pretty accurate.
After about ten excruciating minutes of juggling swabs and surgical tubing we hit gold – urine popped out of the pipe and into the catheter bag. Hooray! I would say there were smiles all round but that would be a lie. Mr P managed a grimace, which was very much appreciated.
Now, I say all of this like it was trial, but it is an amazing feeling be practically involved in a patients care. It’s incredibly important to make sure a patient is producing enough urine – Sepsis, kidney failure and dehydration are all causes of oliguria (the fancy medical term for not peeing nearly enough), all of which are potentially life-threatening issues. It’s also one of those skills I’ll be doing pretty regularly for the forseeable future, so wahey!
Regardless of what TV tells you, medicine really isn’t meant to be a glamorous. From a surgeon shaving off a few extra bum hairs in a case of pilonoidal sinus to getting your glasses spattered in blood halfway through a procedure, it’s all a pretty messy buisness – but it really couldn’t be any other way.