Which brings me to my current location within the lands of an "Elective Block". Unlike some of my classmates who decided to do something clinical with that time, I decided to pursue a research elective, which I have concluded (as I sit in Starbucks and sip on my delicious holiday drink) was quite possibly the most awesome decision I've made this year.
The original plan was to have one study I was going to pound out in this 4-6 week period. Well, that 1 study turned into 2, and the 2 turned into 3 (well, more 2 1/2) and suddenly I am growing research protocols out of my ears and dreaming of HIPAA waivers of authorization. Yet despite all the madness, the simple fact that I get to set my own schedule has been incredibly refreshing. No sitting around in the afternoons on the wards bored out of my mind, no scut work, no asking permission to leave, no early mornings unless I am feeling particularly motivated. Ahhhhhh.
There is one thing that has been particularly maddening though; it's $%#@$%ing impossible to get anyone to do something for you if you're "only" a "medical student." It's the sad reality of the authority purgatory we reside in. On the wards, we can make treatment recommendations but can't prescribe medications. We can place orders but they have to be co-signed. Our notes are part of the medical record but residents must write separate notes for billing purposes. Because there is so little we can actually accomplish independently, we exist in this strange limbo where we can do a lot but there's very little we can actually "do." So it's understandable that there tends to be this dismissive attitude towards med students in the hospital, and I'm cool with that. But the reverse is also true - it often seems impossible to get anyone to do anything for you as a med student. On the wards, I've learned to stop signing my pages with "MS3" because if I do it'll be over an hour until I get a call back. I always go back to a moment on my psych rotation when one of my fellow students on the team slammed down the phone and yelled "Do they REALLY think its only the med student who wants this CT? Just for sh*ts and giggles?!? I'm CALLING because my ATTENDING wants the damn CT scan! RESPECT MAH AUTHORITAH!"
Well, I've found that the research realm is not exempt from this phenomenon. Every email I send needs at least one follow-up before I get an answer. Every voicemail I leave requires at least one call-back before I get a reply. Being that I have precious few weeks where I can devote all my focus and time to this, I'm trying to get things done in an expedient manner, but too often it's like trying to work in quicksand where every action requires twice the normal effort. It's almost a daily occurrence where I want to have a cow and just yell "I'm CALLING because my PI wants the damn form signed!"
So, if there is anyone from the IRB reading this: Please. If a medical student is asking for help in getting something done, try to help the first time. We are not rogue anarchists set loose in the hospital to do what we want all willy nilly. If we're trying to get something done, there's typically a damn good reason why we are.
Now, back to my delicious holiday drink.