Being a fourth-year medical student can be all work and no play; but Katie Tausch has discovered that finding a balance makes life easier. She has spent her fourth year juggling a grueling schedule of clinical rotations, studying and research, while finding time to work out, eat healthy and socialize with friends.
Katie grew up in Vassar, and is a triplet. Her mother was a respiratory therapist, so she was exposed to the medical field at an early age. “I can’t remember the exact moment when I knew I wanted to be a doctor,” says Katie, “but I like taking care of people.” “My sister had asthma and was in and out of the doctor’s office, and I helped take care of my grandparents when they were ill. I was inspired to believe that someday I may be able to understand their medical conditions and help them.”
Katie is studying at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. She completed her first two years of med school in East Lansing and now studies at the Flint community campus, located Downtown. Her goal is to become an ER doctor. She sat down with My City Magazine to share her typical day.
Katie’s day begins at Hurley Hospital for a day of clinical rotation. When she arrives, she is assigned to work with a team of resident doctors and an attending physician. The team typically consists of a supervising attending physician, four or five residents and one or two med students. She meets with the residents and they go over the patient list. “As a medical student, I follow two to three patients,” she explains.
Katie goes to the computer to review the conditions of the patients she will be following and peruse the results of any medical tests they had undergone, as well as their lab results.
Katie goes to the floor to see the patients she has been assigned. She performs a medical exam and asks questions to assess their current condition. She also speaks with the nursing staff to learn about any new events that occurred overnight. “I’m on my own,” she smiles.
At this time, the students start their rounds with the attending physician and the residents. “We go from room to room with the attending,” explains Katie. She gives an update of the status of the patients she is following and the resident doctors give their comments. The attending physician asks the students for their opinions as to what should be done next. On an average day, it takes about three to four hours to complete the rounds. “If there are a lot of patients, it can be tough being on your feet all day,” says Katie, “but the bedside teaching is really valuable for learning.”
Katie takes a break for lunch and some time to regroup. After lunch, she spends time on the computer logging progress notes for the patients she has seen that day.
If a new patient is admitted to the hospital or something comes up during rounds, such as a patient with a condition that Katie is not familiar with, she uses this time to “go to the books and read up on it.” She will also perform a history and physical exam on any new patients admitted. She shares one case that stands out in her mind: a patient who had recurrent small bowel obstructions needed a nasogastric tube (a small tube inserted through the nose into the stomach). Katie had the opportunity to perform this procedure. After it was completed, the patient thanked her and commented that it was the most comfortable procedure she had ever been through. “It feels good to be involved in patient care and know that the patient appreciates you, and that you’re an important member of the health care team.”
At the end of the day, the teams all meet and brief the night team about the patients, and then Katie signs out for the day.
Katie gets home from the hospital just in time for dinner. She makes time to exercise and spends the rest of the evening studying. “I take an hour to wind down and watch a little TV before bed.” She also volunteers for Big Brothers/Big Sisters and has been paired with a six-year-old girl. “I spend time with her when I have a weekend off.” Katie will graduate in May and has been interviewing and preparing her rank order list, which is used to determine the program where she will complete her residency.
What does she least like about being a med student? “The long hours of studying and preparing for exams,” she laughs. “She has struggled to find balance between school and her home life. “I used to spend the majority of my time studying. I lost touch with family and friends, and I wasn’t eating right or working out.” She now takes the time to take care of herself and says it makes her much more efficient. What she likes best? “Caring for a patient and making a difference in their life. Medical school is stressful, but at the end of the day, I will have met my goal of being a doctor – something I’ve always wanted to be.”
“I can’t remember the exact moment when I knew I wanted to be a doctor, but I like taking care of people.”