In the middle of my second year of medical school, I began noticing early signs and symptoms of burnout. The stress, anxiety and diminishing joy terrified me because I wondered: How could I already be burned out when I had not even studied for Step 1 or started rotations at the hospital? Were there any remedies to what I was experiencing?
To keep breathing does not mean to go at it alone or to put up a brave front even when it feels as if the world is collapsing. To keep breathing is to always push towards the goal even when it’s hard and even when it doesn’t feel worth because it will be in the end.
I am writing to share my concern regarding a series of unusual and troubling cases affecting medical professionals across the country. It manifests as a selective form of hemineglect in otherwise neurologically intact individuals.
Medicine is a sacrifice. I knew this upon admittance into medical school. I did not know the sacrifice would be an erosion of my humanity.
While there is no way to choose our patients’ outcomes, we can certainly choose to be empathetic and compassionate regardless of their outcomes. Medicine without empathy and compassion is not medicine at all.
When I applied for medical school, I knew I was signing up for hard work. I knew I would have to spend countless hours studying, that my sleep cycle might never be the same. But I had not expected this.
While it is clear that the issue of depression and anxiety extends well beyond the medical school admissions process, it is important to ask whether it is the beginning of a long and slippery slope to a life of anxiety and depression.
It’s ironic that the medical field is arguably the most humane profession, yet we put our residents and physicians-in-training through such pain and suffering.
It’s 1 a.m., everyone’s running on three cups of coffee / When a man stumbles through the entrance / And I could hear whispers of / It’s him, the homeless man, back in the ER again
“From now on,” our deans told us at orientation, “society will see you as a doctor. Sometimes you may not feel like one, but that is what you are becoming. This week marks the beginning of that transition, which will continue in the months and years to come.”
And what does it mean now? To be accepted? To be initiated, congratulated and nudged toward a curriculum made jokingly infamous by well-meaning administrators and by a culture which treats such consuming endeavors as medical school like abstract forms of busyness?
This path has been far from cookie cutter, / From being kneaded and rolled / By demanding needs to fulfill multiple roles, / I can’t help but wonder, will I make the cut?