Recently, there has been a high level of pessimism and complaining about the state of the medical field. However, soon to be doctors, don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal and the reason why you are working so hard. For many in the field, venting is one of the few ways to express frustrations and problems that need to be fixed. Physicians can’t strike, or walk out on a patient when things get tough, so learn to lean on each other and be a support to one another. Most physicians still love what they do and talking about concerns in health care doesn’t negate the passion for their field.
This leads me to a list of my favorite reasons to love medical school:
I have never been surrounded by a more diverse, interesting, and compassionate group of people as during medical school. You will meet people from across the country (and world) who come from a plethora of backgrounds. You may have a single mom, a man going for a second career, a child prodigy, or a sports star. You are all intelligent, but this will be a challenge for everyone- you are not alone. You have the same goals, so don’t make it a competition. Study together, eat together, party together and grow together.
Never again will you be given such a gift for learning as when you received a donated cadaver from a family. Treat your cadaver with respect and most of all, learn as much as you can from this person. Study every nerve, bone, ligament, and organ intensely. I promise you will never have an opportunity like this again, so get past the smell of formaldehyde and spend as much time in the lab as you can. Don’t forget to ask your classmates to teach them what is unique about their cadavers as each one has something important to teach you.
To have made it this far through the educational system in the United States, you have to love to learn. All day, every day, is spent in lectures or independent/group study the first two years of medical school. You can have a quiet morning at a coffee shop or pull an all-nighter with friends. This is a rare time in your life when you can create your own schedule. Take enjoyment in meticulously tracing every other line in a textbook with a glossy, new yellow highlighter. You will read more textbooks in 4 years than you thought humanly possible. Keep those textbooks for a library in your house one day. It will remind you how much you have learned and how far you have come.
You can make a difference
As you start clinical rotations you begin to see the value of your new career. Helping patients is a gift. While working so hard, you begin to see the indelible link of what you are learning and how it will have direct implications for your future patients. Learning about the pathophysiology of rare diseases and mechanisms behind medications will serve you well in the long run and is something that cannot be replaced by a shorter, easier path to a medical career. The work and long hours will be worth it, and you will have a skillset that is valuable and irreplaceable.
Patients will trust you
People you didn’t know 5 minutes ago will tell you their deepest secrets and will be at their most vulnerable. You have gained an immediate trust with your degree, one that hopefully you will never take for granted or use irresponsibly. Even as a student, you have a chance to make a difference. While at a teaching hospital, I saw many instances where patients were comforted by students, important labs were drawn in a complicated patient case due to the input of an insightful comment from a student, or a student held a resident team together by helping with what seemed to be meaningless “scut” work. You are valuable, helpful, and an important part of the medical team. Don’t ever let an attending or resident make you feel otherwise. You are the future of medicine.
So, new doctor, when the work seems overwhelming or the fatigue insurmountable, remember the ultimate goal. While I have met many physicians who are frustrated with the current health care environment, I have yet to meet one who has regretted going into this profession. You have an opportunity to help many people, and the way you decide to pursue your career is up to you. Enjoy this finite time in your life where your path is still undetermined and you can mold your future into the life you envision.