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.
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.
They asked me how that encounter had gone, and I could feel my cheeks turn bright red. I was embarrassed that I was not able to connect with my patient.
I know that being a third-year medical student is like being a transplanted kidney. One starts the day in one body. School is composed of lecture halls and written exams. However, the world has shifted by the end of the day, and shockingly, one’s old body is not present.
“If I don’t get a cigarette right now, I’m going to punch someone,” he said. “Okay, I understand. One second.”
I used to daydream that my first patient as a medical student would be a happy, reasonably healthy elderly woman.