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.
Soon, we were jolted to attention by an overhead announcement, “Attention, code blue. Six south. Attention. Code blue. Six south.”
A half hour passed by before I heard the first trauma announcement overhead. The pager buzzed at the same time and somewhat startled me. I grabbed the on-call phone, pager and shears and quickly walked to the emergency department (ED).
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.
Through my patient’s same wants and needs, I saw my own thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, fears and my own desire to be liked, to be wanted, to be needed. I felt, for the first time in a very long time, a genuine human connection.