As much as things change, they stay the same…

We finished our Orthopaedics rotation last Friday at Kalafong, and it was quite nostalgic. I remember sitting as a 4th year student – doing my Orthopaedics rotation – watching how the SICs were absolutely devoured by a particular Prof during the morning meeting. I remember fearing the day that I’ll have to stand before the Prof and present a patient, because nothing quite seemed good enough for him back then. The Prof in question – along with a vehement God complex – has a tendency of being unreasonably pedantic and critical  of the manner in which students present their patients [read: semantics].

Last week I – myself – stood before this Prof and almost presented. I say almost because I was told to sit down within the first sentence of my presentation. My patient, you see, was allocated to me by the Registrar on call with me because there were no suitable patients who were admitted to casualty during my call (the Prof wanted long bone injuries, and all we got were a few hand injuries). This, however, was not good enough for the Prof, so he deprived me of the absolute luxury of presenting my patient to him (I guess my memorization of the Schatzker Classification will have to wait until I see my mom again). It’s intriguing to me that 1 year down the line – being those poor SICs – the very same Prof remains unchecked. And – murphy’s law – a registrar notorious for being a terror in the Urology Department (which I started yesterday) is STILL there causing havoc and treating students badly (only the female students?) – the very same reg who gave me hell in 4th year.

In the past year it feels like EVERY part of my life has undergone dramatic changes, but it seems Kalafong is untouched by this phenomenon, and the very same Professors and Registrars sit in their illusionary thrones reigning over the Kingdom of Kalafong – still not quite free from their high-school mentalities and their quests for those white, braided Honours blazers. Most interestingly, these attitudes are reflected directly in the morale of the staff. When you compare the interns from Kalafong with those of SBAH (Steve Biko Academic Hospital), it’s like comparing frazzled pigeons with that of laid-back mother-hens; interns and registrars alike. As the interns come and go each year, the effect of the management certainly remains the same.

The new 4th years joined us today, and I followed in the footsteps of the incredible Professors and Registrars from SBAH in mother-henning the hell out of them. It does make a difference. In this way, being an SIC doesn’t feel quite so scary anymore. And hopefully it also puts the 4th years at ease. We can all work together to make the changes less rattling.

At the end of the day, students come and go and things will change inevitably. In some ways the system stays the same – affected primarily by the quality of the management – and certain milestones will be scary for every group, whether it’s being in 4th year and having to interact with SICs, or being in SIC and having to – well – be in SIC. 1 thing that will probably never change, however, is how bloody long it takes to find a bandage in the casualty department. I think I’ll start by fighting that war first.


“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” – Alan Watts


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