Heed The Fourth Year 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. There were countless holidays that I wasn’t able to enjoy 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 the 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 the 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 a 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 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.

  1. I work in Canadian health care and am very aware of the disdain for the entire medical system. Docs take a hit but I think that’s in part in response to a system that doesn’t work as well as it might. When docs keep patients waiting for hours, have an attitude of aggrandizement and self importance, and do not treat their patients with respect…viola.

    and yet most of those issues are created by the systems that employs the health care professional. It’s so interesting to watch the evolution of family and friends into doctors…I’m hoping with your 4th year ‘hiatus’ that you’ll avoid all that nastiness and enjoy your career choice. Medicine needs sensitive, caring people like you.

    • Louise,
      I always appreciate your opinion, and on this subject it’s even more appreciated. I’ve discussed healthcare with many of my Canadian friends and my understanding is that many of the pros of the Canadian system outweigh the cons as compared to the states. I’m jealous of your system.

      You’re right that docs tend to aggrandize. It’s similar to the thought, as seen in the general population, that we are entitled. This thought gets amplified when an entitled person becomes a doctor. There is a tendency for their self-importance to become so large that nobody else’s concerns can even be seen from so high up on their pedestal.

      Thanks for your comments!

  2. Many are probably intimidated by the god-like power doctors seem to hold. You are our only hope when we or someone we love gets sick! And some doctors have no bedside manner, which is obviously not as important as knowledge, but it counts for a lot. One of the pediatricians in my kids’ practice is very smart but coarse and condescending, and we do anything to avoid seeing him.

    You show an interest and curiosity in the human condition that will serve you well, especially in the field of psychiatry. In the meanwhile, enjoy your free time!

    • Lol bedside manner is a class that some doctors missed. In fact, some should even go on an extended retreat to learn it. Every doctor must pass a practical exam, Step 2 CS, which should weave these people out, but they somehow fool the examiners.

      I enjoy hearing from you!

  3. Good luck with finding meaningful work. Lord, i hope you don’t end up hating your patients. I don’t think that’s in YOU.

    I also hope doctors find life outside the confines of hospitals and ill-health and BOREDOM. My gosh, that would be too awful.

    I hope you work hard at building a complete life. I hope all your fellow med-students and soon-to-be interns do the same. Nice writing. How about poetry and photography??? Be a doc on the side.

    I’ve worked around Law Students in the past. Most of them came to me and said, i just spent a half million and i hate LAW. I spent a lot of time counseling. Not sure what happened to all those LLM’s, but i hope they’re doing SOMETHING with law. Those loans are a burden on tax payers hahaha.

    • iamnotshe,
      Thank you for your kind words. I see it often that docs dislike their work, I really hope it doesn’t happen to me. That’s why I felt it so important to write this particular blog entry.

      I’ve thought about only being a doc on the side. Much like your law student friends, we become a tool of the system because of the massive debt that has to be paid off. Only focusing on making money is not attractive to me and I’d much rather find myself in a creative writing environment in the future. For now, I will continue to learn from you and find my way in this writing world.

      Happy Friday!

      • iamnotshe said:

        Indeed on Happy Friday. Off to the burbs. Hope you enjoy your weekend as well. I’m not sure how yours may differ from the 9-5ers (course i’m not one of those) so never mind.

        Writing is wonderful in many ways. I’m no professional, but it’s certainly a fun thing to do, and maybe i’ll slap together some stuff, someday. Meantime, you’re right, money isn’t everything.

        People mean a lot, for sure. 🙂

  4. I honestly have NO CLUE how you guys do it. Med school. My God, I could just as easily fly.
    Cool post.

    • We all have our battles…sometimes they are self-inflicted like med school.
      Thanks, TC!

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