Saturday, January 30, 2010

Kevin might want to know watcha thinkin' about.

Time is winding down on my psych rotation and it’s given me plenty of time to reflect on the experience. I think it’s safe to say most students do not go into medical school with a yearning desire to enter psychiatry, quite a shame really. This little odd niche of medicine has quite a lot to offer.

3 Reasons to enter psychiatry

1) The sweet life
It’s no secret that the work hours in psych are awesome. As a medical student I got into the hospital at around 8:30, rounded with the attending and resident (no prerounding) until 11:30, wrote my notes and done by 2pm at the latest. Hey, they don’t call it psychation for nothing. This sweet life style extends to the residents as well. They all come in at around 8 and are done by 4 or 5pm. And EVERYONE is happy. I think in all my other rotations, people are always bitching about something related to their work hours (and I haven’t had surgery yet). It’s really no wonder our friend Jess is seriously considering psych as his future career as a way to maximize the amount of time for his video games.

2) Helping the underserved

Everyone says this during their medical school interview, but if residency match is any indication, most don’t follow through. The patients seen on psych truly are the most in need. These are patients who are so sick that they do not even know they’re sick. Combined with inevitable social and financial losses, these are the neediest group of patients any clinician will see. If you truly believe in the schpiel you gave to the admissions committee, you should take a good hard look at psych.

3) Hilariously bizarre
Mental illness is weird, I mean really weird. When schizophrenics develop bizarre delusions, they can be so bizarre it boggles the mind. I had one patient explain to me that she can see people’s sin by staring into their eyes and that’s how she knows her stepfather was a murderer. Hilarious. Although it became significantly less hilarious when she ran into their house with a knife…

3 reasons not to go into psychiatry

1) You’ll forget everything you learned in medical school

I feel bad for saying this but psychiatrists really don’t know that much about medicine. When you become so specialized in psychological illness, you end up forgetting a lot about physiological illness. At my hospital, we had to consult medicine/derm/neuro/etc for every minor medical issue. Morning blood sugar 180? Stat med consult. Odd looking rash on hand? Holy shit we need to page derm. Maybe this isn’t such a big deal for the future psychiatrists but I would feel like I wasted 4 years of medical school learnin’ by going into psych. Going along those same lines, there are only about 15-20 drugs that are ever used in psychiatry. What’s more interesting is that they all seem to be able to treat everything. I got the feeling that regardless of what your patient has, you can just shout out a random psych drug and there’s a greater than 50% chance you’re right.

2) Holy ambiguity

Mental illness is ambiguous. After all, what separates someone who is truly sick from someone that’s just a bit of an oddball? Psychiatrists tend to refer to the DSM-IV as their holy grail of diagnosis but even then, there are a lot of patients who are right on the edge who end up getting treated anyways. What’s more hilarious is that they are allowed to write things like “Possible Axis II features.” For those who don’t know, Axis II refers to the range of personality disorders people can have that can be maladaptive. But when you just say “possible Axis II features” it’s so ambiguous that you’re essentially saying the person is a bit of a douchebag but you’re not sure why.

3) Nonmedical BS

Treating acute mental illness is only half the battle in most patients. I would say a huge majority of the time and effort spent on patients is in finding appropriate living situations for them after discharge. This involves a herculean effort between social work, PT, OT etc etc to find the right place to live and the necessary financial support. This ties directly into point #3 in the other section. If you love that stuff, psych is perfect for you. If you want to enter tertiary or perhaps quaternary care, worrying this stuff will make you want to end it all, and ironically maybe bring you right back to the psych ward.