Observations from the Hospital

One week down, seven more to go! The first four days have been an incredible learning experience, both in regards to adjusting to the language as well as to the work environment of the hospital. To briefly describe my position, I am mainly at the hospital in an observational capacity. This makes sense, as unlike other sectors of the workforce (such as computer programming or marketing), there is little that an undergraduate is qualified to do. Therefore, I cannot actually complete many tasks on my own, as I don’t have the knowledge base and skill set to do things such as diagnose or treat patients. Instead, each week I will be rotating to observe a different psychologist in the Eating Disorder unit. Mostly, I sit quietly and watch sessions, while preparing any questions I may have to ask the psychologist after they finish treating the patient. Occasionally, I am able to assist in tasks such as playing with a young patient during play therapy (this is a Children’s Hospital, and as such all of the patients are minors).

It has not been very challenging to manage my time while working my set hours, completing my assignments (such as this blog), and planning things to do on my own free time. I begin my work day at approximately 9am, although this varies depending on when the psychologist whom I am shadowing’s first patient of the day is. My work day ends around 3pm, although sometimes I am let out earlier, if the final patient of the day cancels. Personally, this is a very manageable schedule, as I have plenty of time in the afternoon after my thirty minute commute home to explore the city and complete personal tasks. For example, today, after work I traveled another thirty minutes to investigate the Karate Federation of Madrid, and was able to set up a meeting with a coach there to learn about what opportunities I may have to engage in a hobby that I enjoy while I am here in Spain. Although it took planning and initiative on my part to kickstart this, my schedule allows me plenty of time to do things outside of internship or school work.

One very interesting thing that I have noticed is how the different psychologists I have shadowed manage their time. The psychologist who I shadowed last week conducts evaluations for early intervention for young children with a variety of developmental difficulties. She also conducts intensive individual and group therapy sessions. Thus, she spends one to two hours with each patient or group, and as a result, only sees about four to five patients maximum in one day. Because of this, her days are less hectic, as she has fewer patients to prep for and more time to relax. Conversely, the psychologist who I began to shadow today had eight patients over the course of six hours. She was running across the hospital all day – and by extension, so was I – and barely had time to review the information for her next patient before seeing them. One strategy that she employed to combat this was to have all of the patient information pages pulled up on her computer at the start of the day. That way, in the mere minutes she had between patients, she did not have to waste time finding any information; rather, all she needed to do was click to another tab on her computer and could readily prepare herself.

While the strategy of pulling up all of the patient files is highly specific, more broadly, this is an excellent example of the importance of preparing ahead of time. At one point in the afternoon, the psychologist got pulled into a quick emergency 15-minute session with a patient in the inpatient wing during what was intended to be fifteen minutes of prep time before her next patient. However, because she was so well prepared, this emergency did not turn into a catastrophe. Rather, she had all of the materials and information she needed organized and ready to go when she finished the emergency session, and was able to slip back into her regular work day effortlessly. While her specific situation was unique, her approach to managing her time and hectic schedule was a great model for how preparing ahead of time can help keep you on top of all of your duties in any job.

Overall, I’ve learned a lot this week about how a hospital operates and how the psychologists juggle their busy and stressful jobs. I have also learned quite a bit of medical Spanish terminology, which is very interesting. I look forward to shadowing new psychologists each week, learning new things, and keeping an open mind for growth!