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.
She sat on her bed in a bright magenta shirt covered in glittery animals, with her arms folded tightly across her chest. Her green eyes were trained on the muted television broadcasting Disney cartoons, and her bed was strewn with coloring books and crayons. This scene looked quite different from the other overdoses we had been consulted on. Still, our attending calmly walked up to her bedside, introduced our bustling team and asked the universal question,
During my OB/GYN rotation, one of my primary roles as a medical student was to observe and assist during labor and delivery. On one particularly memorable Friday afternoon, after we welcomed a healthy baby boy into our world, I delivered the placenta wholly intact on my own. However, while I felt satisfied with a job well done, something was dripping down my leg…
For current third-year students across the country, the pandemic hit at a notably unstable moment in our lives. Mere months after many of us began medical school in new localities amongst new communities, all was suddenly fragmented.
Before starting medical school, buried in a list of to-do tasks, I was asked to submit my Meyers-Briggs personality inventory. I was no stranger to this string of four letters, as I had performed the assessment many times in my life. I didn’t need to take the test again to know what I would get: INFJ.
A classmate of mine committed suicide a few weeks ago. Though I’ve heard the harrowing statistics about physician and trainee suicide rates, to be honest, I never expected to personally encounter such a tragedy. The small classes at my medical school allow for a strong sense of community in which we all know each other, celebrate important life milestones, and happily reconnect when we’re together after clinical rotations scatter us throughout the hospital.
The first thing I notice are his boots. He’s still in his street clothes, having just been admitted. He looks thin, emaciated — his clothes hang off him, shirt collar drooping down from his neck like peeling paint. His boots, however, seem to fit him properly. They look warm, well-worn but sturdy, like they have weathered a hundred bitter winters and could withstand a hundred more. For some reason, this comforts me.
In this episode we interview Dr. Tait Shanafelt. Dr. Shanafelt is a Jeanie and Stewart Ritchie Professor of Medicine, Chief Wellness Officer, and associate dean at Stanford University School of Medicine.
My medical school career was complicated by more than just complex cardiac physiology or biochemical pathways. Little did I know that at the end of my second year I would go from knocking on a patient’s door during a clinical session, to sitting in an exam room myself.
Upon arriving at the room, we learn that the nurse continued trying to speak to this patient in English despite the patient’s evident inability to speak the language. Following her half-hearted attempt at “patient education,” she proceeded to lift the patient’s gown and attempts to strap on the monitors. As a result, the woman is frightened by her nurse because she is unaware of what this foreign nurse is doing to her and her unborn child. One week out from detention. She is scared. Imagine.
When the start of M3 year came along, I was ready: ready to put my First Aid book to rest, ready to be involved with patient care, ready to observe physicians in their realm of expertise and ready to find my place in the broad field of medicine. Now, halfway through the twelve months of clerkships, I ask myself, was it all I imagined it would be as an inexperienced first-year student?
This feeling of loss and subsequent reflection revealed to me something fundamental about how I experience time in my own life. As I depart the anatomy lab, I stand on the shores of time’s river and gaze into the clear water’s surface. In it, I see a reflection of growth and of internal transformation — a reflection not of who I was but of who I have become. I emerge not only learned in anatomy but also with insight into the impact that individuals can have on one another.