Many of us had careers in medicine before beginning this arduous journey of medical school. We were nurses, technicians, EMTs, CNAs, researchers and more. We enjoyed a few years of steady pay and real-world lessons before we transitioned back to textbooks, lectures and rotations. Although it is easy to be lulled into a sense of security and comfort knowing that we have some medical experience under our belts, we have a duty to ourselves to pursue our studies with an open mind.
I believe these inadequate approaches circumvent the answer the interviewer is actually trying to provoke: are you self-aware enough to know your faults?
Every one of us is imperfect, fallible, and vulnerable to making mistakes. Being a strong physician requires self-reflection and awareness, and interviewers want to know if you are willing to be honest with yourself and others. I can’t tell you how to answer this question, but I can tell you how I did.
Rachelle’s winding journey to medical school is filled with twists and turns, with each fork in the road driving her in a novel direction. At age 20, she worked as a waitress, giving her the opportunity to travel and live in new places along the west coast and abroad. Each city brought a sense of excitement and adventure; each adventure brought her closer to finding her true calling.
His parents attended a parent-teacher conference with the hopes of encouraging his teachers to transfer him to the gifted track. After their inquiry, the principal explained, “It would be better for Chris to be in the remedial track, so he can see people who look like him.” This instance of racism would be the first of many for Chris, whose journey to medical school required him to rise above institutionalized racism and implicit biases.
Allowing natural death gives the elderly and terminally ill the opportunity to control the end of their life, providing empowerment and a sense of peace during their time of uncertainty. This patient and her family’s forethought allowed us to provide medications to ease her pain and discomfort. When she closed her eyes for the last time, her body relaxed into the sheets, and I pulled the blanket up to her shoulders. Her family said goodbye, and then I began to perform post-mortem care.
Tanner always planned on becoming a physician, but found himself with a gap year before medical school. During this time, he began teaching different levels of students and soon realized how much he enjoyed tailoring concepts to fit the needs of his varied audience. He told me about his first failed lesson in anatomy, when he learned the hard way that kindergartners can get rowdy and don’t quite know their colors yet.
I packed up my new backpack, laptop, notebooks and pens early in the morning. The anxiety was palpable as my housemates and I dressed up to make our best impressions on our first day of medical school. This was unfamiliar territory. I had become so accustomed to my hectic routine as a college student by day and a nurse in the emergency department (ED) by night, but what would life be like as a “professional” student?
This column is for the non-traditionals, like me. We graduated with a goal, worked with a purpose and returned to school with a dream. I left health care for more health care; I switched stethoscopes on my first day of medical school.