After our first week on clinical rotations, my third-year medical student colleagues laughed about the silly and awkward things that made their first days hard. Someone was shunned for bumping into the sterile field during their first operation. Someone else couldn’t figure out the scrub machines and was stuck mismatching for the day.
My interest in radiology began, as it does for many, with the thrill of coming to a solution based on imaging and some sparse words on a patient’s chief complaint. Reading radiologic scans is like learning a language — a code composed of axial and coronal views, enhancing and nonenhancing areas and anatomical landmarks. When you dive into the millimeter slices of a contrast CT and the defect snaps to your attention, you are hooked.
What happens after a nurse has gained valuable experience at the bedside and fine-tuned this skillset? Many find themselves exploring the idea of returning to school for an advanced degree, which is typically a master’s degree or doctorate in nursing. On the other hand, some choose to take a path less traveled — from nurse to physician.
As a fourth-year medical student from a new medical school who just finished interviewing for ophthalmology residency, I can credit much of my interview season experience to intentional career planning and preparation early on. The ultimate impact of the upcoming changes to the USMLE Step 1 to pass/fail is yet to be fully determined. However, in my perspective, this monumental shift in medical education will place a greater emphasis on the need for thoughtful career planning earlier in medical school.
Freud supposedly understood himself as a surgeon of the mind, dissecting his patients’ mental anatomy through the process of psychoanalysis. I found this comparison appealing, so when I started the psychiatry clerkship in my third year of medical school, I approached the interview in psychiatry as analogous to a surgical procedure — efficient, scripted, precise.
The Match process is an emotional roller coaster ride that feels like it lasts forever but also flies by. Being on the other side and looking back, I wanted to do my part and share my thoughts about how to stay grounded and sane during this time.
I was raised by two physicians who did not “differentiate” until well into their rotational year, and they did, as their generation tends to say, “just fine.” But the reality is that what was “just fine” for physicians-in-training even one generation ago is no longer as feasible.
It was exactly what I wanted — a stable salary, not having to be on-call and the ability to focus on the tasks that had made me passionate for medicine in the first place. More medical students should consider pursuing obstetrics hospitalist careers directly after residency, yet many are unaware that it’s even an option.
Wednesday morning, October 10, 2018. I was standing in an operating room, 2,500 km away from my home and my medical school, trying to recall the five layers of the scalp.
As I look into the future, my greatest fears dance with my deepest hopes. I may pine for change even while wishing I could stay exactly where I am. I don’t know what I will do yet.
A decision was at hand. Which trail would lead him where he wanted to go? The right or left? Both or neither? A simple choice. An impossible choice.
Ryan Pate, who recently matched into psychiatry at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, shares about medical school expectations, the interview trail and more.