As physicians, it is our responsibility to understand these serious implications and to help these patients live as fully as possible. A patient is not just his or her numbers — their vitals or their lab values. A patient is not just an MRI reading or a CT scan finding. Every individual has a mind, and we must take into account mental health when treating these patients because if left untreated, they can have dire consequences. More importantly as people — as humans of society — we must not stigmatize these illnesses.
Many of us have this romanticized version of the ED in our heads from some TV drama. We imagine a world where beautiful physicians are sprinting next to flying gurneys, pounding chests and snarling, “Get me epi, STAT!” We imagine a war zone rife with Shakespearean tragedy, with heart-breaking moments that leave grizzled doctors weeping.
Patients don’t always have to let us into their rooms. As medical students, I think we don’t give enough acknowledgement or praise to the vulnerable individuals that allow flocks of medical students to bumble around their bedside. But our perceived ineptness is the last thing on the patient’s mind; a friendly face that is willing to listen to their story is just as important.
I followed my surgical rotation with my rotation in psychiatry. My experience was in many ways the opposite of surgery — there was more time to care for each patient, and there was more time to care for ourselves. I would show up at 7:45 in the morning, spend the day conducting lengthy interviews with my one or two patients and then rounding on these same patients later with the team, leaving by 5 p.m. It was refreshing to have time to study, time to exercise, time for sleep. But the work itself troubled me.
Somehow I managed to complete a full year of clinical clerkships without bearing witness to a patient’s death. This seems like a marvelous and lucky thing, and it is for all the patients whose care I played a role in over the past year. However, this might not be such a great thing for me, as a future clinician. Medicine is two parts science and one part humanity. The science part can be read in journals and learned from books, but the humanity part is learned by experience.
“Great, six weeks of crazy people!” This is the sort of attitude with which I went into my psychiatry rotation. Couple this with the fact that while most schools only have four required weeks of psychiatry, my school has six weeks. Of course, I would have more free time compared to other rotations — it is called “psychation” for a reason — but at what cost? Mental illness was something that made me uncomfortable.
Pixie Sanders, a recent fourth-year medical student who matched to Banner University Medical Center South for family medicine, gives us her expert advice on succeeding in medical school and beyond.
Friday afternoon psychiatry didactic sessions are a holy time among medical students. A golden weekend rapidly approaches and the afternoon, typically spent trudging through paperwork, is instead spent listening to residents talk with minimal effort required to listen. At the end of a frantic third year of rotating, sometimes it’s nice to just set the busy work down and take it all in. Granted, I’ll actually have to learn the info at some point before the test, but for one afternoon it’s nice to be passive.
After four tough years of medical school and student loans, facing down seven more grueling years of training, aspiring neurosurgeons enter a residency interview process that is as bizarre as it is effective.
Farrah Fong, a recent fourth-year medical student who matched to Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital for family medicine, gives us her expert advice on succeeding in medical school and beyond.
Diane Brackett, a recent fourth-year medical student who matched to Massachusetts General Hospital for pathology, gives us her expert advice on succeeding in medical school and beyond.
Samantha Margulies, a recent fourth-year medical student who matched to Yale-New Haven Hospital for obstetrics and gynecology, gives us her expert advice on succeeding in medical school and beyond.