Two More Weeks

Just two more weeks of hiding behind the label "intern" remain. I'll no longer be able to use the self-depreciating excuse "I've only been a doctor for about fifteen minutes" to diffuse my own insecurities. I remember as a medical student seeing interns become second-year residents. An attending told them to remember how they felt at the beginning of their own intern year and to wonder if they looked that wide-eyed and scared. There'll be seven new emergency medicine residents at the beginning of July and to some degree they'll be looking to me and my fellow PGY-2's for advice, guidance, and an encouraging word or two. It's scary.

As much as I'll pretend I know where things are and how to do procedures and get work done, the truth is that though I'm more comfortable with the feeling after an entire year I'm often still so naïve and frightened of so many things; forgetting the obvious, disappointing myself and others, and failing at something I want so dearly to do well. But I'll buck it up, put on a brave face, and remember to tell my new colleagues that everything will be better soon.

Now is as good of a time as any to remember a couple of the things I've learned this year.

  1. It's the little things: A smile, holding an elderly patient's hand when you're telling them they're having a heart attack, getting a cup of ice for a patient - these are the things patients and their families remember and the only way to reclaim your humanity in the midst of 80-hour work weeks, 30-hour calls, and endless paperwork, quizzes and lectures. Remember to care. It's too easy to forget.
  2. Sleep and eat when you can: You never know what's about to happen. Take care of yourself or no one else will, not because they don't care but because everyone is so busy. Go to the cafeteria. Take a nap in the afternoon when you don't really need it. You'll need it later and won't be able to get it.
  3. Try: As much as I like Yoda his "Do or do not. There is no try." quote doesn't work in medicine. Here persistence pays. Being bold enough to attempt is the only path to mastery. Internship is not kind to the meek soul. I guess being a doctor is different from being a Jedi in a couple of important ways.
  4. Be patient: With yourself and others. Becoming a medical student necessitates being a hard-worker dissatisfied with failure, but becoming a doctor requires calm nerves, the ability to learn from your mistakes and to only make the same mistake once.
  5. Listen: You may be surprised what you can learn. Patients, families, nurses, attendings, fellow interns and residents can all teach you something. Even support staff like housekeepers and cafeteria workers can be your allies. You'll be surprised so much as a physician - surprised by patients, diseases, diagnoses, and outcomes. Just don't be surprised when someone teaches you something. Anyone may lend you the last piece of information to make a diagnosis or how to write a prescription. If you listen hard enough you may be able to hear what's wrong from patients and more importantly what they want and need from you.

I probably learned more than five things this year, but not much more.
It's good to remember in life. It's good to remember where you've been, where you've come from, where you're going. Otherwise most of your life will end up lost. Journeys all have beginnings, middles, and ends.

My favorite part of visiting the mall is to discover my own location using the "YOU ARE HERE" sticker stuck to the colorful plastic maps always placed near the food court. From this one place you can plan your shopping strategy, organize a surgical strike at the Gap or a lazy day of wandering past colorful department store display windows. Every once in awhile it's important to reorient yourself so you can find the sugary pretzels, smoothie stand, and the bathroom when you need them. Remembering is like that--it tells you just where your journey has led you.

Andrew Jacques ('05)