I’ve been asked by medical students in the classes below me about my third year experiences. Every student’s experience is unique, but listed below are the things I’ve discovered along the way that have helped me survive and even enjoy my third year.
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.
I had not yet guided a ‘goals of care’ discussion. This is the discussion that entails understanding a patient’s wishes regarding end of life care, and it is often in the context of determining what advanced medical interventions the patient might want. That day, my short white coat felt shorter, like it was yelling out to everyone I encountered that I had no idea what I was doing.
I was starting my surgery rotation, the second rotation of my third year, on the colorectal service. It was my first 24-hour on-call shift, which meant that my team would be responsible for multiple surgical services overnight.
I hate to say that there is something exciting about getting called in to the hospital in the middle of the night. Logically, I know that means something bad is happening to someone else, but it makes my heart beat a little faster and my adrenaline surge.
I just finished my two month surgery rotation, and as a third year medical student new to the wards, I had a steep learning curve. One of the things I learned the hard way, causing me to nearly cry during rounds, was how to properly present a patient’s history and physical examination findings.
My former pediatrician always had the brightest smile. She was an effervescent “people-person.” Between her and episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, I always thought that all physicians were outgoing butterflies flapping back and forth between patients and their vibrant social lives. Physicians are usually depicted as extroverts, and medicine a profession of the people.
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.