Wednesday, May 20, 2009

For several weeks in May, Rivers seniors embark on self-directed independent study projects that can involve anything from volunteering at a soup kitchen to, say, earning a rocketry certification. Over the next few weeks, we will be periodically checking in with a handful of students to learn more about their experiences. Today, we hear from Kate Burns, who is working at the Boston Children’s Hospital.
I'm now in the middle of my second week of interning at Children's Hospital in Boston. I've been working at as a research assistant for Dr. Meredith Van der Velden, who is an attending in the Intensive Care Unit. Dr. Van der Velden is conducting research on the decision making for critically ill patients for different nations around the world. I was drawn to this internship because this past summer I interned in the Simulator Suite, which is run by the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) physicians. So all summer, I was able to shadow different health care professionals and see how they worked in the unit. While this was super interesting, taking care of the patients is only one part of being a doctor; another equally important aspect is research.
So, for my first day, I had to learn how to do this research. I took a tutorial on how to access the PubMed Database, an online website of a compilation of different medical articles. However, this site is huge. I practiced by simply searching for critical care medicine, and 44,072 articles came up. Clearly, that was not going to work. So, I spent the entire day watching different tutorial videos and was able to narrow my search down to only 20 reviews - way more manageable.
I've spent the rest of the week doing specific research. The interesting twist about Dr. Van der Velden's research is that she wants to compare different nations' decision making processes across the world. No one has ever really compared the guidelines suggested by the Japanese Pediatric Society to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Van der Velden will analyze the differences to try to understand what cultural or societal factors influence the decision making process.
Now because I'm not fluent in Japanese, Italian, and well anything except English, I have had some problems getting specific guidelines and statements from certain nations. Luckily, I've been able to e-mail the founders of these societies asking for information. It's been so interesting to see major the differences between nations. For example, America believes that the parents should be the main decision maker in palliative care, whereas Italy does not even feel its necessary to inform the parents what the team has decided for treatment of their child.
Now, all of this research has been really excited for me, but another great part of my internship is simply being at the hospital. I've been able to go on rounds Grey's Anatomy and Scrubs style, shadowing Dr. Van der Velden and her team as they assess their patients. Also, last week a visiting physician came from Austria to discuss his groundbreaking research on the importance of body temperature for critically ill patients. I went to Grand Rounds where he explained his findings to the all of the ICU physicians. Everyone at Children's Hospital has been so supportive of my project and really want me to learn as much as I can for the three weeks that I'm here.
So, right now, I'm waiting to hear back from my e-mail correspondents, and in the mean time, I think I'm going to focus on South American countries.
-Kate Burns

No comments: