Where to even start? I am still in shock that Friday was my last day of third year. Between moving cities, unpacking, rekindling old friendships and starting fourth year, I haven’t had time to let it soak in. I am done with the hardest part of medical school – the “country club year” is beginning. With this realization, I decided that I needed to take time to ruminate over this past year. I have learned an incredible amount of medical information, drug management and diagnostic algorithms. But more importantly, I have explored the art of healing that is so often lost in our current health care situation. With the insane demand of keeping practices afloat financially and seeing the overwhelming number of patients that need health services daily, while juggling insurance guidelines and the latest up-to-date information, it seems daunting to pursue the passion of medicine. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to work with some of the most compassionate and dedicated physicians while in the Valley. I witnessed the everyday health maintenance visits with dosage adjustments and general physical exams, along with emergency surgeries and births. I was a part of the team that broke the news of cancer to a patient – holding back tears, as her eyes widened into a terrified look. I delivered multiple babies and caught a glimpse of the miracle of life. I stood for hours in uncomfortable positions, holding that dang retractor during surgeries. The experiences are all one in a million and I feel so incredibly blessed to call them my own.
So because I am a list fanatic, I decided to reminisce on what I learned during my 3rd year of medical school in list format:
- Babies come out really fast.. and they are slimy and slippery and covered in goo. Once you almost drop a newborn, you may suffer some anxiety with the next birth.
- When they tell you to not lower your arms after scrubbing in for the OR, they really mean it – like not even a centimeter below that “magical” level, where somehow bacteria and viruses decide not to crawl up any higher. And don’t forget to adjust masks/goggles before scrubbing in – or you will have to repeat the entire process again.
- Stereotypes are unfortunately true quite a bit of the time.
- Patients get “the best margarita of their lives” upon entering the OR.
- Emergency situations are not my forte.
- Cocaine really can cause heart attacks – and on that note, EKG machines don’t always read the strip right (ex: reads “normal” when in fact there are ST elevations.)
- Never assume you know the whole story.
- ALWAYS ask drug history – even if it is an 85-year-old man. Some of those fellas are still getting crazy on the weekends.
- Some people “just got the suga’s”
- ALWAYS ask sexual history – a teenager will give you some pretty funny looks when you lecture about condom use when she doesn’t sleep with men. And don’t assume there is an age limit for when kids start to have sex – 11-year-olds do it too!
- Never let the sun set on a small bowel obstruction.
- When a patient yells “Do you love me?” down the hall because he thinks that you’re his wife.. don’t answer. Just walk away.
- Military sexual trauma is very real – for both men and women.
- All children have RSV.
- Newborns are not as fragile as they look. Trying to do an exam on a newborn when you are afraid to turn them over is slightly difficult.
- Knowing a few key medical phrases in spanish will get you miles!
- Test scores don’t determine how good of a doctor you will become. Some of the best physicians I have worked with were not at the top of their class.
- The OR causes as much tension and stress for me as I thought it would. One of my happiest moments of 3rd year was my last day in the OR forever.
- You can still have a life outside of medical school. Keep up with your hobbies and passions. You prioritize your life and can dedicate time to what you love.
- Scrubs are meant for stains – placenta, blood, tissue, urine, vomit, etc.
- Sometimes sleep is more important than studying.
- Having supportive family, friends and partners make a huge difference. All of the emotions, stress, first time experiences and feeling like you never know what is going on can wear you down – you need to decompress and recenter yourself. Thankfully, Whitney has been my rock this year. She never failed to make me laugh, inspire a smile or convince me that I needed a break every once in awhile. Without her, I would have been lost.
I feel like the list could go on and on, but let’s not get excessive. As I study for boards again, (this is my much needed study break) I realize how happy I am to be almost done with the bookworm aspect of medicine. Yes, I will always have to keep up with the newest medical guidelines and developments, but I am almost done with the last few tests of medical school. Learning on the job, in clinic, seeing patients with diagnoses that I had previously only known by a list of symptoms in a book – it transforms learning to a more active process. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, feel all of the hard work that has pushed me through this uphill battle.
This post is dedicated to my wonderful and supportive partner – Whit, I am so proud of all of your accomplishments. Thank you for motivating me to study when I needed it and encouraging sleep and ice cream when I needed that too! We are almost there!