“Time of death: 12:26 p.m.” Hearing those words on the first day of my Intensive Care Unit (ICU) rotation was surreal when just a few hours ago we were discussing the patient’s status during rounds.
I never expected to have such a similar experience of being immersed in a new language while remaining in the US exactly five years after my summer in France. But the hospital is truly a world of its own, complete with its own vocabulary.
The HIV clinic was one of my favorite rotations in all of third year. It was often emotional for me. Many uninsured, low-income patients came to the clinic not only for their HIV treatment, but also for comprehensive primary care.
I had been invited to the general surgery journal club. In the sweltering heat of a southern summer, I dressed as crisply as possible because I had no idea what to expect. While I embraced this opportunity, I had only been invited because another medical student had fallen ill.
Asking someone if they want to kill themselves becomes easier every time. The appalling part is how quickly this and other taboo personal questions became a normal part of my routine.
Like an early Sunday morning in New York City or a football stadium the night before a game, it is a hospital on a holiday weekend. This is my first experience of how quickly peace can burst into bedlam in medicine.
I prepared myself to discuss lab results and dietary counseling. But then my eyes stumbled upon the words on my screen that seemed to be staring back at me: ‘Lung cancer, metastatic to the bone.’
Training to become a physician is not only about acquiring knowledge, but also learning to impart that knowledge upon others — most importantly, our patients. But, in this process of knowledge transfer, is it possible that the information we deliver becomes akin merely to the terms and conditions of a software agreement, the obligatory pop-up hastily scrolled through and accepted by the user — in this case, the patient?
The impostor syndrome I experienced was extremely debilitating and, at some point, it handicapped my performance in my rotation. I even doubted the way I walked; I constantly looked at my badge to make sure it said Ana Meza-Rochin and not someone else’s name.
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.
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 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.