Reflecting on the first month as a new physician

July as a newly minted intern: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

The only analogy I can make is you feel like a middle school kid sitting in a PhD course, desperately trying to back-learn everything in a language of acronym alphabet soup you’ve never heard before.

If medical school is drinking from a fire hose, this is trying to sip from Niagara Falls. You have no idea about the subject matter, even less idea about the system and logistics of things, and you just hope you learn where the bathroom is soon because you’re about to wet yourself you’re so terrified that you’re a mouse click away from killing someone.

You feel like your body is a clenched into a fist every second (and there’s a lot of them) you’re in the hospital, and you say “I don’t know, let me ask my senior” so many times a day you think you’re really just a glorified (and redundant) intermediate in a game of Telephone that would be easily eliminated if hospitals would just implement two-way texting instead of pages. You are thoroughly convinced that if your patients remember your name, it means you are not pre-rounding early enough.

You are mentally drained, physically exhausted and emotionally taxed every day and just try to recharge enough for the few hours you have home to get yourself to go back for another round the next morning.

All that being said, it is also one of the most rewarding times of your life. Because right when you think you’re about to fail, your senior or fellow or nurse catches you. To them, you cannot be more thankful as they keep you from slipping from practicing medicine to practicing manslaughter. You learn fast, adapt quick and soon you start taking your first baby steps into being not a complete drain on the team … and maybe even doing some doctoring along the way.

Your first patient (as an official doctor) who brightens up when they see you enter the room shows you why you’re willing to be this beat. Because no matter how tiring, it’s an incredible privilege that they’ve given you the trust and responsibility for their care … and that they choose to not hate you as you assault them with pointy objects, torture them with devices and procedures, and wake them up before the sun begins to creeps in their tiny window.

They are vulnerable and afraid, and you are vulnerable and afraid. But, you plow forward for the both of you. You start to remember things you’ve learned from eons past, you get resourceful to make up for your many deficits and ultimately, you’re challenged, learning, and most importantly, growing.

Amy Ho is a resident physician.

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