There are many things that medical school does not truly teach you. The main thing being: how to be a doctor. Contrary to popular belief, medical school doesn’t produce doctors, not really. It produces individuals who happen to be intelligent and hold an insane amount of knowledge about the medical sciences. But how to be a doctor? No, not really.
It doesn’t teach you how to truly get comfortable with patient interaction until you graduate and are forced to become comfortable talking to patients without thinking to yourself “Is this how I’m supposed to do it? Did I use the right words? What’s the layman term for _____ again?” I recently played a patient for a final year clerkship OSCE exam – a gynaecological history station. It brought back memories of being a student…was certainly a different experience being on the other side of the exam table. I distinctly remember thinking to myself that these students all spoke a certain way, that I too once spoke this way, but the reality of being a doctor is that the patient is a real person with emotions that need to be acknowledged and not someone you’re talking to in hopes of covering all the points on the marking sheet.
It doesn’t teach you to deal with loss. Deaths happen. All. The. Time. Too often, I’ve been called for a warded patient resuscitation and rarely see anyone make it through. In fact, I can count on one hand how many patients came out of a cardiac resuscitation with a heartbeat in the past year.
It doesn’t teach you to deal with mistakes. Because mistakes are unforgivable and doctors must be the gods who are incapable of them.We must be perfect. Except we’re not. We happen to be as human as our patients. I think it’s funny how we are expected to hold ourselves together in intense and often depressing situations – be professional and never break down. Sounds like I’m expected to be heartless, except 1. people don’t want a heartless doctor, and 2. I have feelings too.
It doesn’t teach you how to deal with chronic fatigue. Being on call is a pain in the bottom. Yes, as a student you spend late nights studying and being tired but that’s nowhere near the same as being a tired intern. As mentally taxing as studying can be, working is both physically and emotionally taxing. Not to mention, as a student, you’ve chosen to keep yourself up at night and can really fall asleep anytime. Not so much the case when you’re on call.
Essentially, you spend the first few months of your intern year adjusting to a whole new way of life. There’s nothing in medical school that prepares you for the trials that come with the occupation. Glamorous is it looks to be a doctor, especially as a child, it’s far from. And while you may think you know, to an extent, how badly it can be as you go through your medical school rotations, you don’t really know until you feel the toll on your mind and body.
On a lighter note, this is my last month of internship. Feels like the time flew…but, at the same time, FINALLY!
P.S. Not everyone likes being a doctor. Thankfully, I still love my choice of profession.