“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” ~Bill Gates
As of late, like the other thousands of medical students in the country I’ve been busy. Too busy to even post as much as I’d like, but here are some updates on what medical school life is like for me. I’ve recently just finished battery of tests.
During orientation week we were told “A lot of you will fail exams and classes for the first time. In fact, what may shock you is that you’ll actually be trying and still fail”. This have proven to be true.
I’ve heard about a 1/5th of the class may have failed one particular exam we just had, I was fortunate to pass that one. We’ve had 4.5 courses, and here and there people are a good number of people struggling to adjust to what medical school requires. We’ve had at least two students leave, one on leave of absence to restart next year and one person just decided medical school wasn’t for them. However, I wasn’t so lucky on the second biochemistry exam however, I’ve passed the first exam, failed the second, a fail in that course is a B- mind you. Currently, I’m making some adjustments so I can hopefully defeat the last exam coming up in a couple of weeks. Interestingly, the hardest part of medical school is trying to zero in on how you should study, especially as a battery of professors teach the course and write the test, so it’s hard to figure out what style you should use. In general, we’re learning that the rule of thumb is to ‘simply’ know everything that’s ever uttered — unless the professor concretely states “This will not be tested”, and even still take that with a grain of salt. After the exams I had a good friend stop by from California, I took him on a three day tour of Boston including the public library. Every medical student needs time to unwind.
In our program, we round on patients during our first year. I signed up to work with outpatients, so I flip flop between urgent care and family medicine to learn what “normal” patients will present like. Later, I’ll switch over to inpatient hospital rounding to get used to what a “normal” inpatient is like. Clinic rounds are a great break from studying, and it’s a great chance to try to make links between course material and patients. It seems almost divine that things I learn in class end up presenting themselves rather frequently in clinic: during the “back and limbs” section of anatomy I saw patients with rotator cuff injuries, when we started the cancer lectures in biochemistry I had to work with a physician while he tried to discuss the patients prognosis (and unfortunately, neither prognosis was favorable). While discussing bad news with patients (cancer) I’ve learned they expect physicians to be understanding of their situation, but at the same time it’s important to be the “strong one” in the relationship, especially when they’re already scared. It’s odd to think that I just started a few months ago, and merely while merely dawning a ceremonial white coat and a stethoscope people, namely patients expect and admit so much to me. I’ve learned about people’s fears, ambitions, secrets, I’ve seen burly tattooed men cry because they’re in chronic pain, a pregnant mother who tried to commit suicide after her boyfriend ditched her after learning about the pregnancy. People really do tell their ‘doctors’ anything, it’s quite a position of trust. We were told that we’d encounter these scenarios during the first couple weeks of school, but we thought as infant medical students they were just trying to “scare us straight”, but they weren’t kidding.
You hear a lot of painful stories, physically and emotionally, but you maintain a calm and caring face while listening and maybe later you have time to reflect on how you really felt — scared, but that’s okay.
In a few hours I have clinic duty again, I will put on my white coat and engraved stethoscope and put a smile on my face to project confidence while I interview patients. I will get a history as usual, present it, and the results will be added to the electronic health record. After that, I’ll go to school and study for several hours, head to anatomy lab (we bisected the head yesterday) and study some more. I’ll return in the evening, perhaps after 9-10 PM, eat and study some more, then go to sleep to wake up and study again.
Study hard premeds, medical school is wicked hard, but it’s also an unforgettable experience.