A very interesting day. It started with 8am rounds at the hospital. I was observing only, as I can’t officially work until the Medical Council gives me the final OK (expected next week). These were called hand-off rounds, where the doctors who had worked overnight discussed the cases they had seen, and then one of the surgical house officers presented a little lecture about atrial fibrillation (an irregular heart rhythm). A bit about terminology and medical education in New Zealand (which I’m still learning, so bear with me). Medical school in New Zealand is a six year endeavor. However, unlike the United States, where you attend medical school for four years after you graduate from college (University), in New Zealand you enter medical school directly after high school. The first four to five years are not so clinical, and the in the fifth, and especially the sixth year, you are on the medical wards preparing to become a house officer (the US equivalent of an intern, or first year resident). Here, though, you do two years as a house officer (often called a surgical house officer, even though your training can be in medicine) and then you become a registrar (the US equivalent of a senior resident). Today’s hand-off rounds went fine, and it all seemed pretty relaxed. Then I was taken on a tour of the nine story hospital which included a tour of the staff cafeteria (we don’t have one of those where I worked in California). It was pretty swanky, compared to our cafeteria back home. Then I went to administration to fill our more forms (I’m nearing one hundred forms so far), and then we were off to the lab, I was told, for my MRSA swab. MRSA stands for Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus; a nasty bacteria. In the US, we don’t routinely screen doctors to see if they carry this bacteria because there isn’t much you can do if you have it, and it’s not clear if you have the bacteria on your skin (and assuming you follow the recommended hand washing, which we all do) that it’s transmitted to patients. Anyway, there we were at the lab and they handed me TWO swabs. I knew they would want to swab my nose, but I asked what the second swab was for. “Oh, that’s for your perineum.” I was told, matter-of-factly. Interesting. (Your perineum, well, mine anyway, is that place ‘down there’ where your legs meet your nether regions). They handed me the swabs, and pointed me to a public toilet. Off I went, swabbing away. I should have the test results back next week. Wish me luck. I do not want to know what is in store for me if I test positive. Tomorrow, I’m told, I am meeting with the IT department, which I really hope means Information Technology, and not some other area on my body to swab.
Now, about some comparisons. There are two grocery stores within a block area from my apartment. I like to eat healthy food, so it didn’t take me long after I arrived to begin to shop for my own food to cook (a standard, middle of the road, restaurant meal is about $20 dollars, with the Nz dollar about 0.8 to the US dollar). The first thing I noticed was there were no blueberries. In fact, there were no raspberries and no strawberries. There were kiwi fruits. If you know me, you’ll wonder how I’ll survive without eating blueberries every day. Believe me, I starting to wonder too. Even as I write this, my hands are shaking from blueberry withdrawal. Fortunately, they have excellent grape juice here (aged in oak, if you know what I mean), which helps with withdrawal symptoms. Once I recovered (about an hour, and two epinephrine injections) from the fact there were no fresh blueberries to be had, then I had a look around the rest of the grocery store. It was, in many respects, very similar to what we have back in the US. Except, the prices. Look at the picture above, and yes, that’s right, a small little box of tomatoes is 7 to 8 dollars. There were not special tomatoes, like we see at Whole Foods- “organically grown and hand picked on Tuesday, by James Wilson, of Wilson farms, at 10:29am”- these were regular tomatoes. And it was like that for all the vegetables. The kiwi fruit was a good buy, though. And it did take a while to get used to food being sold by the kilogram. I saw some fresh king salmon today for $47 dollars a kilo. At first I was taken aback; but then doing the math it’s not that much different than Whole Foods back home (if you don’t shop at Whole Foods, here is a simple calculation- think what you spend for any grocery item, double it, and you have the Whole Foods price. It’s that easy!). Apples, too, were not too expensive; about $4 dollars a kilo. I bought several, and they were excellent. Well, I must rest up for my IT encounter tomorrow, so for now,