Day 4 is my live patient interview. It’s the last interview of the course, and the room is packed with doctors. The patient has chronic schizophrenia- her face is flat and she says very little. I sink my heels in the carpet to make myself wait for her responses- they are there when I give her time. We manage to cover all the important topics- psychosis, suicide, homicide, medications, living situation. After the interview is over, my interviewer grills me. She is rude and impatient, asking multiple questions in one breath, not waiting for my responses. At one point, I answer a question with “a couple of times a month”. She fires back, “How much is a couple- 2, 3, 10?” I am confused. Once the mock interview is over, everyone applauds. She tells me I did great. I walk out, still confused and upset.
Out in the courtyard, my friends confirm my suspicions. “This is what she does with everyone. That’s why there was such a crowd- people have been coming to observe ‘the drillings’.” The military psychiatrist has teamed up with the Bangladeshi doc and is teaching him to organize his notes. I join in, sharing my templates, dos and don’ts. Later he takes us out to dinner to say thanks. We run into others, some of whom stop to shake my hand and tell me how well I did. I feel better. Over Chinese food, we talk about families. Pictures of spouses and children are shared, fortune cookies read. The course is over.
Day 5 is a free day for us. My friend schedules us a massage and we meet for brunch. Sitting there on the patio with our iced teas and salads, we can almost pretend this is a vacation. The spa bolsters that feeling. My masseuse is soft spoken and gentle. I close my eyes and ignore the life size Buddha statue in the corner- it embarrasses me to be naked before the Buddha. When she turns me over, I notice the bars on the ceiling. “What are those for?” “Those are for the Ashiatsu massage. I use them for support when I do the massage with my feet.” Falling into the massage haze, I wonder if I’d ever let anybody walk on my spine with their feet.
That evening, friends from residency start flying in. I meet one of them for Ethiopian food. She’s working in community psychiatry as well- we exchange war stories. The restaurant owner mothers over us and scolds us for not licking clean our humongous platters of food. Chastened, we get leftovers packed and vow to eat them for lunch the next day.
On day 6, we show up for registration and to receive our exam schedules. I will be one of the people taking the exam at two different locations. After the vignette exam at a local University medical center, I will take the shuttle to a community mental health center for the live patient interview. The speaker, head of the board, urges us repeatedly- “Do not miss the bus. Do not decide to drive yourself. Please, please, please, don’t decide to put your photo ID in a new and special place.” All my friends have their exams at a single location. I try not to feel bummed. Instead, a friend and I go out for coffee and I get a new battery for my rarely used watch. I will need it for the exam- they gave us timers at the course, but beeping time keeping devices are not allowed at the exam.
That evening, four of us from the residency program meet up for an outdoor Italian dinner. We discuss jobs, goats, and fathers. Thunder strikes as soon as we put down our forks. The tea light draped tree under which we are sitting trembles. Fat drops of water hit the table. Determined to have our just desserts, we run to the ice cream shop, taking shelter under awnings when we can. The shop is crowded even in the rain, with the line snaking double upon itself. We end up leaving without ice cream. I drop my friends at their hotel and drive back very carefully. Tomorrow is exam day.