"I am not a man to be moved by a pretty face," muttered Ralph sternly.
November 10, 2008 8:17 PM   Subscribe

Dear doctors, nurses, undertakers, anatomists, and other professional seers of the secrets of the human body: how does your daily interaction with the inner workings of man affect the way you see your friends and lovers?

In other words: if, for example, you're a surgeon, do you have a sort of background awareness of what's going on inside the people you interact with outside of the doctor-patient context? Like, if you're just knocking back a beer with your brother, do you have a low-level awareness of what his liver probably looks like based on the livers you've seen and touched? Or are the personal and professional worlds totally separate? Are you aware of any difference in the way you think of or relate to other people's bodies since your medical training began?

Thanks in advance for satisfying my curiosity.
posted by prefpara to Human Relations (11 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
IANAD, but I an a biomedical scientist. I don't think it's changed my interactions with most people, the exception being my immediate family and closest friends. In their case, when I hear "I have a cold", I'm more likely to dispense advice or explanations of what's going on, if they seem interested.

In general, being a scientist and a skeptic makes me cringe much harder when people offer up useless folk remedies. If someone says they're taking Airborne, or massive doses of vitamin C to ward off a cold, I'll tell them to save their money, then explain why. Sometimes it changes their mind, sometimes it doesn't, but I feel obliged to at least try.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:29 PM on November 10, 2008

Yes, I do have a background awareness of what's going on anatomically, biochemically, etc. but most of the time I choose to ignore it after I come home from work. I spend all day interpreting people's physical symptoms for them so I'm kinda tired of it by the time I'm knocking back a beer with my brother. Don't get me wrong, there are some things about the human body that astound me to this day but after twelve hours of sweating under that white coat I just want to enjoy a damn beer, same as everyone else.

Most of the time I spend with patients, it's with diseased patients: people with nodular scarred cirrhotic livers, floppy inelastic emphysematic lungs, people with atrophic demented brains. The people you usually encounter in your daily life are just normal people and it's not that interesting to think of their inner workings. I think my medical training does give me an enhanced appreciation of my own body at times: when I am exercising hard or playing guitar or when I am feeling sick. But it's pretty easy to turn it off and ignore it, because most of the time it just doesn't serve any purpose.

I will say that it has probably made me a better lover.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:55 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Occasionally it's fun to talk shop and explain stuff to non-medical friends, but I mostly try to separate things.

I will note a fairly-recent obsession with people's veins, estimating what size IV catheter I could put in them. (This is in the setting of trying to improve my phlebotomy technique as an intern.)

I cannot eat liver. Reminds me of the smell of the OR. And recently, I went to a Japanese shish-kebob place and tried a chicken skin kebab. Couldn't do it. Smelled/tasted like cautery.

A lot of it we probably don't even realize anymore. I wrote a bit about this happening to me back in 2003.

Sometimes medical stuff pops into my head at non-medical times, and I really wish it wouldn't. Like, I can't just enjoy the moment, my brain has to medicalize it and re-interpret it as such.
posted by gramcracker at 9:34 PM on November 10, 2008

When people really really annoy me, I often imagine what their enormous necrotizing hemmhorhoids would look and feel like. Vividly. Satisfyingly.

When someone tells me what their childbirth experience was like; I know exactly what they are talking about, and all the bits they've left out or already forgotten.

We all live with the knowledge of what's happening inside people. I also notice "good" veins, and can't eat liver.

I know who among my friends and aquaintances don't wash their hands after the toilet. It's automatic to notice things like that that other might never attend to.

I don't share these things (usually) unless asked.
posted by reflecked at 12:51 AM on November 11, 2008

I often sigh at my spelling: hemhorrorhoids. :D
posted by reflecked at 12:52 AM on November 11, 2008

I also look at people's veins.

Aside from that, the only way being a nurse has changed the way I look at people is that it's made me really stressed out about my parents getting older.
posted by makonan at 2:51 AM on November 11, 2008

It doesn't affect the way I see my friends/lovers/children/etc., but it does affect the way I interpret what's going on in my own body. I suppose that's the fun part (until there's something vaguely worrisome, then you know far too much for it to be fun).
posted by pammo at 4:40 AM on November 11, 2008

I used to teach gross anatomy to medical students in a wet lab (with prosections - big preserved piceces of bodies of people who have donated themselves for teaching). It didn't affect how I interacted with people but I couldn't eat large chunks of muscle for years.
posted by gaspode at 5:01 AM on November 11, 2008

No idea, but I just paged our favorite undertaker, ColdChef.
posted by radioamy at 11:12 AM on November 11, 2008

It's an interesting question. I just realized recently that I've come to think of family and friends as--not alive--but : pre-dead. In my head, I quietly plan their funerals, compose their obituaries, practice their eulogies, select their pallbearers. I think about how I would act if my wife or child died immediately. I imagine the accidents and car wrecks that could take them from me. It's an unspoken fact that I will eventually see the wives and mothers of all my friends naked.

But I try not to dwell on it. It's professional curiosity, not a compulsive disorder. At this point in my career, I have seen the insides of relatives and friends. I've touched the brains of the first girl I ever felt up. I've washed and dressed two of my former teachers. Twice, I've lifted up the lifeless bodies of my grandparents.

Because of all of this, I guess I do see people differently. And not just people I know. I get really really queasy when I see morbidly obese people out in public, because my first thought is increasingly becoming, "How am I ever going to be able to lift you?" I know that makes me a terrible person, but I can't help it. I'm not MAD at that person, just frustrated at my limited abilities.
posted by ColdChef at 11:38 AM on November 11, 2008 [26 favorites]

It's an unspoken fact that I will eventually see the wives and mothers of all my friends naked.

ColdChef, if you ever write a memoir, please let this be the opening line.
posted by scody at 11:53 PM on November 19, 2008 [5 favorites]

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