Saturday, June 6, 2009


I start residency orientation a week from Monday.

What else can I say? It just feels so huge. It is still not real that I graduated and am an actual medical doctor. Perhaps this is because I certainly do not have the knowledge or experience required to be a medical doctor. Which makes it all the more terrifying that in one week I will be expected to do the job of a medical doctor.

It's funny, looking back, at how stressed out I was about rotations and exams and stuff. I mean, those were grades--that's all. And starting in a few weeks, I will have ACTUAL LIVE PATIENTS for whom I am ordering tests and treatments and medications. Before, I could fail an exam. Now, I could FREAKING KILL SOMEONE.

Now, all of you in medicine know that this isn't exactly 100% true. There are layers and layers of supervision and oversight designed expressly to prevent me, as an intern, from killing someone. But just because I can look down from the high wire and see the net doesn't make me feel all that much better about being up there. I mean, I could fall onto the net, then bounce off of it and land directly in the mouth of a hungry lion. I could fall right into the sole location of a gap in the net. The whole damn net could break, my skull along with it. I will be way the hell up there, and having a net below you is not equal to being on nice, solid ground.

What brought this panic on is the info I just got about taking my PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support) class, a two day long affair you have to spend some time studying for ahead of time. And, suddenly, it occurred to me that, holy cow, I might very well end up in a position where instead of hovering against the wall or, at most, being the bag mask girl during a code, I might be expected to actually run the code on a kid. And then I broke out in a cold sweat.

I know that this will pass, and that after a few months of trial by fire I will feel more sure of myself, and less scared. But I kind of hope that the fear never completely goes away; that I never feel totally confident in my abilities. It's a price I have to pay to be the best physician I can. It's the way to keep me on my toes, keep me reading, keep me trying to be better every day. Fear, my constant companion.

(Quick side note: Since I started medical school, every day I find it harder to understand doctors who have a huge ego. Nothing, nothing has made me feel more humble, more naive, less knowledgeable, less confident than studying medicine. And because of its nature, I can't imagine ever feeling differently. Just because you are an excellent swimmer doesn't mean you can just dive in swim across the ocean, no matter how long you train.)

In any case, I leave you with the advice that all those in the medical profession already know: for God's sake, don't get sick in July.


DK said...

Dude. I hear you. My first call as an OB I reflexively asked my upper level to cosign my orders. He was like, "Uh, you can do that now?" And we laughed, and he left, and I signed the order sheet, and then I sat there blinking at it for like two whole minutes thinking, "Crap. I can do that, now. But, you know, what if I really can't??"

Of course I could.

None of us are perfect, and you're going to fuck up. Sometimes royally. Expect it, learn from it, only lash youself the appropriate amount, though, okay? And call me for consults and coffee and moral support.

And - wow, dude, the ego thing? No freakin' kidding. How do they muster that? Because I still have many days where I feel like I must really be a kid playing doctor...

Old MD Girl said...

Tomorrow you start, right? Good luck! Not that you'll need it.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for this blog, read the whole thing today, found it Googling grad school vs Med school... so I'm a 4th year grad student 2 kids third on the way, full time government employee with a wife who is a nurse and full-time student. Sometimes it gets hectic, (who am I kidding a lot of times) currently in a burnout phase but thanks to you're blog, I'm motivated to go look at thousands of feet of roots under a microscope today, with the realization that you just keep moving foreward and it eventually ends.

30 year old Guy, school for 25 of those..