Posts Tagged ‘medical clerkship’

A few days ago, my batch wrapped up our first three years in medical school with a week-long “celebration” marked with a series of written, oral, and skills exams. Now, we are officially done with classroom-based learning and are (supposedly) ready to embark on a journey of gaining knowledge from the hospitals full-time.

On the last day after our final exams, the batch partied in a way only medical students knew how – wildly. Prior to that however, the lower year level and the school administration threw us a send-off party, where a couple of people who’d gone before us gave us tips on how to survive clerkship. One of our favorite doctor-teachers, who specializes in obstetrics-gynecology, also wrote each one of us a few tips on how to survive not only clerkship but also internship and residency as well. I’m collating all of their tips here and philosophizing on each one because, despite being medical clerks, we are still extremely philosophical beings.

  1. Remain humble; in short, don’t be a primadonna since you are the “lowest animal in the food chain.” How can we not respect the hospital peking order? Learning from the experience of other people is a privilege. Why be a primadonna over that?
  2. Always show professionalism; don’t answer back. I used to think that being professional meant doing your job and, as much as possible, doing it well. It sucks that it actually also means doing it with a smile on your face, which transparent faces could sometimes be unable to do when faced with lack of sleep, food, and camaraderie. How do you hold your tongue when you can’t even hear yourself thinking?
  3. Always smile; kill them with kindness. We have to admit that, when faced with an extremely disagreeable person, killing him/her with kindness instead of with violence is quite hard, if not humanly impossible, to do.
  4. Take the initiative; always go the extra mile. I was telling a friend the other day that one of the advantages of living away from family during medical school is the absence of familial obligations. It’s a sad but somewhat valuable fact at this point in our training.
  5. Look forward to a “toxic” duty.  I cannot remember a lot of things from the lectures but I am hoping sincerely that I learn from doing.  So yes, bring all the toxics!  I just hope I don’t unwittingly kill a lot of people in the process.
  6. Be assertive without being aggressive. Middle children, which I am, are particularly flexible and good compromisers but, having been surrounded with testosterone growing up, being aggressive in the face of apparent attack is what I know how to do. How do you fix that part of yourself in a little over a month?
  7. Be confident without being cocky. In all honesty, I have no idea how one can be cocky when one is at the bottom of the food chain. It’s like trying to be the alpha male when one is apparently a puppy. Furthermore, if one has no idea what one is doing, I am not sure the line “confidence is key” applies.
  8. Pray. Human limitation is the most common reason why our actions, our knowledge, our ability to be kind and understanding, and our endurance can only go so far.

Perhaps the most important thing medstudents can learn from shadowing their seniors is this rare virtue called humility.  The medical field is rife with people with egos the size of Jupiter, which in some way could be understandable given the vast amount of knowledge they have had access to over the years and given that they literally hold other people’s lives in their hands.  Maybe they have a right to those egos?  Gee, I don’t know but, before they were doctors with big egos, they had been medstudents with even bigger egos… and the medical training system had found a way to ensure that those ego could be brought down a peg or two… or a thousand.

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Going home to celebrate the holidays with my family does not mean that I’d left medicine in the closet in my dorm room to rot for two and a half weeks.  In a family of (mostly) doctors, the topic of conversations usually is (you guessed it) medicine.  By now, you’d think I’d be bored to tears or, at the very least, frustrated with the commonality of it all but no.  As funny as it sounds, I feel more of a (would be) doctor in the company of other doctors who believe that I actually know what I’m talking about as opposed to being in the presence of doctor-teachers who look at me as if I know nothing despite three years of drowning myself in all these medical shiz-nits.  See what I just did there?  I just allowed Pride to run its mouth.

Going home to my hometown also means having to meet up with the few high school classmates I’d chosen to keep in touch with over the years and bumping accidentally into those I’d tried very hard to not come into contact with in the last several years.  With these people, the topic of conversations usually revolves around what everyone else is doing – to put it simply, who’s at the top and who’s at the bottom, who’s the winner and who’s (still) the loser.  I would be a hypocrite if I said I’d never listened intently or asked prodding questions myself but the bottom line is that high school never ends, does it?

As one of my medschool friends would tenderly say, we rise up in people’s estimation with a medical diploma.  The honorable part of me wants to believe that that medschool diploma does not make one better than the other, despite the other thinking it himself already, but the realistic part of me has got to accept that we, as a society, put so much emphasis on education, especially further studies, because acquiring one seems to be tantamount to inevitable future success.  What people seem to forget is that a diploma can only serve its purpose if partnered with the priceless experience necessary to achieve that level of success.

I am halfway through medschool but I froze – totally poleaxed – when I saw a woman fall to the floor in the grocery store a few days ago when a thick holiday crowd was milling about.

The one other thing that made me ashamed of myself as a medical student, besides the fact that I totally went cold and froze as I watched her spontaneously fall, hit the floor, and look disoriented, is the fact that, at that time, I was thankful I wasn’t wearing my white medschool uniform.  Only when people had rushed to her aid did my brain start working again – ticking off the signs and symptoms, trying to come up with differentials etc.  As penance for my inaction, I stood at one side for a good 20 minutes just in case while the grocery store staff brought her a chair and her companion started to fan her.

I don’t like giving excuses so I cannot say that I was not able to help like I’d wanted because I did not have a stet or a pen light or a sphyg because who would I be kidding then?  I thank the good Lord that it was most probably just hypoglycemia or acute mild hypoxia instead of stroke or a seizure.  So, no.  I was not proud to call myself a doctor-in-the-making at that time… and my medschool education did nothing during an emergency situation when this supposed doc was on vacay.

As such, I repeat.  A medical diploma needs the necessary medical experience to be able to achieve expected results.  So, really – I do respect my mentors for they’ve seen more patients and been in more emergent situations compared to me.

I am humbled.  Humbled me shall now go take an ocean swim.  Pass the suntan lotion, please!