I was called to a code the other day. Now I should probably clarify: as a medical student, I don’t actually do anything (unless they really need people for compressions). In fact, I wasn’t even in the room.
The last year of medical school heralds more than just the end of an era. It brings with it the confidence in a career choice doubted several times just a year ago.
The very first patient I ever met on my internal medicine rotation was someone who hated being in the hospital. He took every opportunity in the following ten days to remind us that he was waiting to be discharged.
In high school, I was obsessed with wearing only vintage clothing. After hours of painstakingly searching every clothing rack at Goodwill, I would find a well-worn baseball jersey or an elaborately bejeweled Christmas sweater. I felt a sense of immense pride in reclaiming someone else’s memories — their winning games, their holiday parties – in an attempt to express my “uniqueness”.
Greet the customer. Select the meat. Cut the meat. Clean the slicer. Wash the dishes. Sweep the floor. This is my daily routine at High-Venus Deli.
The point of my story is to outline a scenario that many of us as students have probably experienced: being the target of a superior’s anger. This isn’t the first time that an attending or senior has treated me poorly and unfortunately, it won’t be the last.
She and I experienced such extremes of strangerhood and intimacy in only 72 hours. But what a privilege it was, to be there for her when she had no one else, to advocate for her, to go a little (or a lot) above and beyond on her behalf, to see the inter-workings of this stranger’s life: this is why I chose medicine.
The most stressful part of the medical school application process for me was the last phase, when there was nothing I could do except wait to hear back. I feel most content when I know there are concrete actions I can take to influence an outcome I care about.
Congratulations, you’ve started medical school! The dream you have had since you were nine years old is finally coming to fruition. You’re going to be a doctor! Just … not in 2012, when you think you’re going to graduate. In 2018. I’ll get to that later.
Sometimes the best intervention is not a medication but rather a listening ear, not a vaccination but rather a shoulder to cry on, not a screening test, but instead an advocate.
Dan and I mimicked ducklings as we followed our senior resident, Tassia, single file down the stairs on our way back to the resident room. As we neared the bottom, we crossed paths with another medicine resident leading two medical students playing the same roles as Dan and I.
“I used to be an elementary school art teacher in San Francisco.” The more he smiled and the more he spoke, the larger the lump grew in my throat. He wore a grayed t-shirt that matched his unkempt black beard.