Shadowing an ENT Specialist

For the past two months, I was able to shadow an ENT specialist. It has been a very interesting and helpful experience. I had absolutely no familiarity with the field of otolaryngology before shadowing, so it was all very new information to me. Patients had a wide variety of different issues, which made it even more interesting.

I haven’t yet decided what specialty of medicine I want to go into. I’m interested in oncology, allergies, and anesthesiology. I discovered through shadowing that otolaryngology involves all three, and I’m now strongly considering becoming an otolaryngologist.  The doctor saw several cancer patients whose cancer was in the mouth or throat. Allergies and otolaryngology also go hand in hand. Surgery is a big part of an ENT doctor’s job, which I’m very interested in.

He also saw about an equal number of children and adults, which makes this specialty more attractive to me because I can’t decide if I want to treat children or adults. A lot of people had allergy-related sinus problems, ear infections, or sore throats. Several patients had to have tubes in their ears or their tonsils removed for chronic infections. There were also some patients that he treated for endocrine problems, particularly relating to the thyroid. I learned a lot about the treatments for these various health issues. This wide variety of health problems made for a very intriguing shadowing experience.

Apart from learning about the medical aspects, I also learned a lot of tips about etiquette when dealing with the patients and their families. This becomes increasingly important to me as I get closer to medical school, since book smarts are only part of the journey. For example, the doctor would always ask the patient if there is anything else he can do for them before he leaves the room. He explained that this way, patients can’t say that they didn’t get a chance to ask everything they wanted to ask, and they won’t feel like the doctor was just rushing through their visit. I also discovered that being a doctor requires an awful lot of patience in the same way that customer service does because patients have some habits that can be annoying after a while. Apparently, it is not uncommon for patients at the ENT clinic to not know why they are there, other than that another doctor told them to go there. It is also common for people to not follow the doctor’s orders and they end up having problems because of that. There were several patients who had cancer in their tongue or throat because they had been smoking all their lives. All of these patients went right back to smoking after the cancer was gone, despite the doctor telling them not to. Behavior like this can be a little bit disheartening, but it goes with the job.

I actually wasn’t expecting to be so interested in this field of medicine. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was going in, but prior to this experience I wasn’t exactly fascinated with ears, noses, or throats. But surprisingly, I am now incredibly interested in otolaryngology because of my shadowing experience.

ACU pre-medical and pre-dental students shadow doctors for real-life experience.
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