I had just started my third year, and I had already witnessed six patients die. I had never been called a black cloud before this, but it immediately stuck and seemed fitting.
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”.
“No, no, no,” I repeated, first silently and then as a whisper, as I frantically pushed the elevator button. The reliable elevator chime did not ring, and the button light would not stay on. “Great. Fantastic,” I sarcastically muttered.
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.
It was a Wednesday morning. The air was crisp. The sun graced us with brilliance. I made my way to the emergency room where I was working for a two-week period on the cardiology consult service.
At 7:21 p.m., I arrive at the hospital for the first overnight shift of my medical career. It’s not a great start — the bus was late, and I didn’t sleep nearly enough this afternoon in preparation for the night ahead.
The first thing she noticed, / Was her heart fluttering off and on, / The doctor saw her pale, / And iron pills were called upon.
Dear medical students, I’m sorry. You had just finished two years of didactic learning and couldn’t wait to feel like a “real” doctor. You were finally starting your clerkships, that is, finally working with patients and getting deep in the trenches.
“Be a duck,” became my mantra throughout medical school, so much so that my mother had it printed onto a canvas and has it hanging on a wall at home in my honor. As a medical student you might think I would be more interested in having the prowess of a lioness, the elegance of an eagle, the speed of a cheetah or the energy of a dolphin. A duck, as most envision it, does not have much appeal; except, however, when swimming. The quote that led me to emulate the duck is Michael Caine’s, “Be a duck, remain calm on the surface and paddle like the dickens underneath.”
Am I in the right place? / What’s this person’s name again? / I discovered the door code! / No more waiting outside for someone to let me in.
It was Friday of the seventh week of my family medicine clerkship. I was tired. Tired from the day and, honestly, tired from the clerkship. I was ready for a change of pace. The next patient was Mr. S., a 30-year-old male, here for an establish care visit. I did not recognize the name. I reviewed his chart before the encounter, two visits in the system, both to the ER for cocaine-induced angina. I stereotyped him immediately. Not that this was right, but I did. I think everyone does.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the clinical portion of medical school. Now you’ll work alongside interns, residents, attendings, pharmacists, social workers, and a myriad of other health care workers to provide quality care for your patients. As a resident, I’ve seen medical and PA students struggle with feelings of anxiety, incompetence and disorganization. They are excellent with patients, but often have difficulty with team dynamics and understanding their roles as clinical students. Here are some tips for success modeled after Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”