I've devoted considerable blog space to what I've experienced as a first- and second- quarter medical school student. I've shared some of the utter terror I felt when I had studied more than I thought a person could study but still didn't know if what studying I had done was enough. I've written about a particular professor who felt that the main purpose of his course was to let us know, in the event that we had made it into medical school actually believing that we were intelligent beings, that such couldn't have been further from the truth and that possibly, and only remotely possibly, the only individuals on the planet who might have been stupider than we were were the individuals who had been declared brain dead but whose machines connecting them to life in a technical sense had not yet been disconnected. I've told of peers who struggled to keep up with course work. I've shared stories of those who have gone out of their way to make me question everything about my own worthiness to occupy space on the planet, much less to take a spot in one of our nation's more prestigious medical schools. I've shared how, in my opinion, Karma frequently rears its head in such situations.
Still, there's a lot I haven't shared, and much of what I have shared could only be described as superficial. Some of what I do on a daily basis will never make it on paper because I cannot walk around all day typing every single action as i complete it. Or I suppose I could, but not without annoying everyone in my immediate proximity. Some things are too mundane to capture anyone's interest, including mine. Unluckily for me, however, interested or not, it's my life and my course of study until the practice of medicine becomes both my vocation and my avocation, and I'm stuck with it.
Other things I deliberately have not discussed, or at least have not done so with much detail, because it's too difficult to discuss -- either too personal, too painful, or so cumbersome to explain that I scarcely know where to begin.
Still, if I hope one day to be not just a physician but also a writer, I cannot gloss over the parts of my story that are agonizing, embarrassing, or simply tough to find the words to describe. In this series, which I really hope will be a series though I will not even pretend that its chapters will be contiguous, I will give my every effort to delve into those dark areas I've previously avoided. I've devoted reasonable space to my "Practice of Medicine" course, during a portion of which we medical students work with actors pretending to have ailments and injuries. The scary thing about that is that in less than two years, we will not merely see but provide initial service to some of these very same patients in the actual clinics and emergency rooms for real pretending to have these same injuries and ailments. They've been trained to realistically portray patients who may need narcotics, and some of them will put that training to good use.
For the most part, though, "Practice of Medicine" is the "fun" part of our education. No one will really live or die or lose a limb or section of gut based on an exam we did or didn't perform, or on a test we did or didn't order, or, very soon, based on the treatment we chose or failed to choose on the basis of the results of those tests or exams. While a professor will come down hard on any or all of us for screwing up -- usually he or she comes down hard on all of us when just one of us messes up -- and act as though it was an actual matter of life or death when the "patient" lying on the gurney pretending to be dead is just a member of the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the professors here are merely doing their jobs. Some do their jobs a little too well, in my opinion. I'm not sure that it's absolutely necessary that virtually every female student and half the male students be reduced to tears each time a "patient" is lost. Despite being one of the youngest student [my brother is technically younger by seconds] and despite being 100% female, I've grown surprisingly good at holding in my tears and staring professors down when they scream at me because one of my colleagues allowed a patient to "bleed out" on the fake E. R. floor. The physicians/professors don't want us behaving in such a manner when we're on an actual hospital floor, so I'm not sure why they're eliciting such responses now.
Yes, we need to take the scenarios seriously even though they're now just practice situations. It may not be life or death at this point, but all too soon it will be, and if we don't take our studies seriously now, we will not be able to perform our duties when the real thing presents itself, nor will we be able to maintain composure when not everything goes as our textbooks say it should.
I've written in a facetious matter about the sheer futility of time in the in the actual E.R. and in the clinic. I'll try to describe it in greater depth and, without violating anyone's confidentiality, recount what I've actually seen and experienced in my time there.
Early in my med school education, I very briefly alluded to tossing my cookies in my initial encounter in human anatomy lab. I've otherwise avoided the subject at all costs other than describing being into the place during my dream about Mitt Romney chasing me with the ebola-tainted syringe. As sensitive a subject as it will be for me, I will try to walk the reader through the very real process of cutting into human flesh for the first time -- both the sheer terror of actually doing it and all the other emotions it brought to the surface.
Meanwhile, I'll need to intersperse these entries with my usual light-minded drivel, as doing so is what allows me to maintain what little sanity I have.