This man won’t stop hitting on me and for some reason I’m simply amused. I could easily be mad, upset or annoyed, but I feel like I get it. It’s harmless, meant as flattery, and it’s hard not to take it as such when I feel like such a pure version of myself in this moment. Alive and functioning in a role I believe that I was designed for, I continue to explain medications and record his missing vitals. Taking his history at our Tuesday clinic for this homeless shelter, the piece of me that would have been so disgusted in Tanzania, becomes a refreshed medical student, reveling in the joy of her new role.
While I still know nothing, I do know enough about humans to poke and prod at his life story and discover why he’s showing me his swollen hand. It is blushing red and bustlingly enlarged compared to his other, but shows no signs of pain. As I feel for tenderness or abnormalities, my mind flickers to gloves and I quickly question the thought. Am I more concerned about contamination because I’m at a homeless shelter? I dispel my assumption through a lens of equality and move on.
He shows me a scar from when he fractured his head in a car accident 15 years ago. I slide my finger along the raised ridge and know that its effects will never fully heal. That is a familiar feeling. He’s worried that his swollen hand is due to his previous accident. It’s not. But I let him entertain the idea anyways.
When the actual doctor comes in, he greets our patient like a friend, and my work is nearly done. I soak up the knowledge as I watch the doctor-patient interaction, eye-contact, skin contact and make a million little mental notes. Like me, the doctor ignores gloves. I am reassured, but not completely comfortable with my initial musings. I re-vow to not see patients as their situation, but as people. My mind wonders if this is a vow I will be constantly reaffirming for the rest of my life.
Of course it is. I let my mind linger.