Heed the 4th year medical student spoils

Looking back on the first three years of medical school, it’s hard to imagine living through the endless days of studying again. Weekends were spent cooped up in the library and there were countless holidays that I wasn’t able to spend with my family. Instead, they were spent memorizing indecent aspects of the human anatomy and performing DREs on strangers. There are better ways to get to know a person in the hospital, but sometimes the DRE is the only social tool necessary.

As one peruses social media outlets about doctors and the medical field in general, the consensus is that there is a feeling of disdain harbored against us. It’s hard to determine why people have such negative views on medicine, maybe it’s because they encountered one of the bad apples, they were injured by a physician, or maybe they weren’t properly educated about their disease and its outcomes. In any case, my class will be entering a field that has very mixed feelings toward us, despite the fact that they know nothing about us.

Just as you may think that you don’t know me, there has been a feeling that I don’t particularly know myself. Have I been changed by the hardships of these past four years? Do I look upon people who do not choose to pursue an MD degree as lesser than I? To answer this question, I do not. However, I do have a different respect for my colleagues; much like a Marine sees the soldier standing next to him differently after surviving the grit and grime of warfare.

There is no doubt that we have changed in these past four years. Fortunately, if there is one time in our career of medicine that we will able to find ourselves again, it is during fourth year of medical school. Before we walk through the very last threshold to becoming a doctor, I strongly suggest you try to relearn who you once were. Residency will not allot you the time for self-reflection or self-exploration.

There were many things that I had to set aside for medical school. It hasn’t been until now that I am finally able to pick those things back up and appreciate them in a different light. I have always wanted more time to read and write, and now I have it. I have always wanted to push myself physically, thus I completed the 2011 Tri-State Tough Mudder. There is nothing better than feeling the warm morning sunshine on a Spring day, I plan to enjoy many of those soon.

I could calculate the immense amount of time required attaining the status of fourth year medical student, but alas I’m in too much bliss from the spoils of being able to go to the gym or read a non-medical book to tax my brain in such a way. Unfortunately, these small elations will not be as easy to come by when July arrives and we become interns.

This is why I was so distraught that I lost my appetite when a classmate recently told me about her day. Apparently, it was an incredibly slow morning and my classmate wasn’t learning much more than how long it takes for Benjamin Moore White Satin paint to dry on the wall of the on-call room. Thus, around 1:00pm she concluded that it takes 5 hours and 27 minutes, which was also the same time that her resident realized how bored my friend was. The resident asked her if she wanted to take off since there wasn’t anything else to learn. Unfathomable to me, my friend denied the opportunity to be relinquished from utter boredom, choosing instead to stay a few more hours. To this day, I still can’t comprehend her decision.

Therefore, my goal is to spread the message to all upcoming interns to take this chance to relearn who you are and what you enjoy so that you will be equipped to handle the long journey ahead. This will make you a better person so that you don’t burn out or begin despising your patients. In turn, this will help to assuage some of the negativity that surrounds our profession. And believe me, the resident you’re working with right now will encourage you to do the same. They remember exactly how they felt the day the match list came out.

“Nonmaleficence” is a medical student who blogs at his self-titled site, Nonmaleficence.

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