Allow me to introduce myself.
I’m you 20 years ago, or 45 years ago if you were in the Class of ’72. I’m you one month ago if you were in the Class of 2016. I spilled coffee down my shirt, my hair is kind of a mess, and there are dark circles under my eyes from long hours spent studying.
Great. Then you’re in the right place. The final exam is about to start. Actually, you’re already late, and you’re in the wrong room. Oh, and did you know that you’re not wearing pants and haven’t been attending class all year?
I bet you still have dreams like that. And if you haven’t had one of those in a while, perhaps you will after reading this. You’re welcome. Once a med student, always a med student.
I’m about to start my third year, and just between us, I’m terrified. Med student to med student: The hospital is weird, don’t you think? Sometimes when I walk through it, I feel as though I have arrived on a strange island inhabited by the most peculiar creatures. It helps to narrate my observations of hospital island life in my best David Attenborough voice: “Here we have a bright green-clad surgical resident. Temperamental beings, we note the dismal facial expressions at the sound of the beeping black box they keep secured to their waist.”
Fun, isn’t it?
Needless to say, I haven’t quite gotten my sea legs yet. My voice shakes as I present patients to less than patient attendings. My knees buckle at the sight of blood. (That’s not going to be a problem, is it?) Even when I manage to leave the hospital, the memories of the day don’t fade but rather play on a continuous loop in my mind (as I write this, it’s 2:15 a.m.).
Also, everyone in the hospital seems to know a language I don’t speak. Plummer-Vinson syndrome, herpetic whitlow, defervescence (that’s the sound Alka-Seltzer makes, right?). And sometimes it’s not even words: AMA, BIBA, BRBPR, +LOC, s/p MVC.
My classmates and I need a guide, someone to make sense of this place, someone who’s been to this strange land and is familiar with its rituals and customs (and smells).
How about you? You with the long white coat. Your hair is kind of a mess, and you have dark circles under your eyes from long nights taking care of sick people or worrying about them as you fall asleep. Oh, and I think you spilled your coffee.
Yes, you’ll do just fine.
The author is an anonymous medical student.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com