I have just finished my rotation in obstetrics here in Gainesville, and it has been my favorite rotation so far. I have done many new and challenging things, like helping deliver babies and assisting with C-sections, while also building on skills I was already familiar with, like seeing follow-up patients in the continuity clinics. Even though I had to wake up at 4 a.m. every day, I did not mind it at all, which I took as a sign that I very much liked what I was doing. But what made the rotation really stand out for me was how great the faculty and residents were. They are all very passionate about their work and are extremely intelligent people. They are also very dedicated teachers and mentors, and they really helped me make the most of my learning experience during my time there.
One of my favorite experiences came during my first 24-hour shift in the labor and delivery ward. It was very late into the shift, either hour 19 or hour 20, and I had just finished assisting with my second C-section. At that point, I was very tired and looking forward to just sitting down and resting for a bit. We were still in the operating room when one of the phones rang. A nurse answered the phone and then called out that I had to go and meet one of the other residents immediately. So I quickly left the operating room, took off my protective boots, hat and facemask, and I met the resident at the doctor’s station.
The resident was sitting on a chair, pulling on a pair of protective boots. It was Dr. Deming, one of the second-year residents. She said, “You’re going to help me deliver this next baby. Go and put some boots on.” So I left the doctor’s station and its comfortable chairs behind, went to the hallway cart that had all of the necessary materials, and dressed up again.
As I pulled on my boots and tied my mask, I started to get very nervous. Up until that point, I had only ever seen one vaginal birth before, which one of the first-year residents performed by herself. And here I was about to help deliver a baby and who knows what I was going to have to do and what was going to happen. But still, I wanted to see it through. So I met Dr. Deming in the patient’s room and we both gowned and gloved for the delivery.
“Take a seat on this stool here,” she said, stepping aside and motioning toward the steel seat right in front of the patient. I sat down and introduced myself, and we waited for the next contraction so she could start pushing. I was holding my gloved hands up in front of me, not wanting to accidentally touch anything and become non-sterile. But apparently that looked strange, because Dr. Deming pushed my hands down onto my lap; everyone, including the patient, had a good laugh at that.
When it came time to push, Dr. Deming, along with the nurses, coached the patient though it and then guided my hands with the necessary maneuvers. First the baby’s head came out, then one shoulder, then the other, and very quickly the rest of the baby followed.
As soon as the baby popped out, I immediately thought of a piece of advice that one of the fellows told me during orientation. We were practicing maneuvers with a plastic dummy and she said, “When they come out, make sure you grab a thigh because those babies are slippery!” So with one hand I supported the baby’s back and head, and with the other I grabbed a thigh. She was right; the baby was squirming and moving its tiny arms and legs around like it was trying to swim away. But I held the baby securely while Dr. Deming clamped the cord and the nurses wiped the baby clean. I must have been stunned at seeing how quick and efficient everything was, because I didn’t notice that Dr. Deming had finished and the nurses had already laid out a fresh towel on the mother; they were now just waiting for me to act.
“Girard; put the baby on the towel!” everyone said at once.
“Oh, sorry,” I said, and I placed the baby on the towel, where the nurses covered it up and brought it closer to the mother. After that, we delivered the placenta. Then we packed everything away, congratulated the mother, and left her to get some rest with her baby.
We walked back to the doctor’s station and I sat down. I thought it would feel good to finally have a rest, but I was not tired anymore. I looked at the clock and was surprised at how much time had passed. I was more surprised at how quickly everything had happened. One moment I was doing one thing, and the very next I had to do something else. The nearness and unpredictability of it all was refreshing. I am the kind of person who likes to work on a schedule, and I like knowing what’s going to happen next. Interruptions and uncertainties make me nervous, but that day I learned that things can happen unexpectedly but everything can still work out. And even with something as unpredictable as spontaneous labor, it was clear by how efficient and precise everyone acted and that everything was under complete control.
This rotation has been full of unexpected things, and it was much more rewarding and fulfilling than I could have imagined. It has made me think not just about the obstetrics topics we learned about during the rotation but also about whether I might be a good obstetrician one day. Some days I see myself working in obstetrics, and some days I don’t. Even so, I have done a lot of work these past three weeks and helped deliver a lot of babies. Sometimes I find myself thinking about what kind of people those babies will grow up to be. But their future, like mine and everyone else’s, is unpredictable. I have learned not to see that as a worrying thing, though.
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