Sometimes I end up asking myself why I wanted to become a doctor. Why do I want to do this? What is my end-goal? What do I get out of this? Why do I put myself through this physical, emotional, and mental torture? Ask these questions to some of my classmates in med school and I am pretty sure that you would get a blank face and a shoulder shrug in response. I am also positive that most of us would be too jaded to even process the question. One might have to think back to their med school entrance interviews four years ago, when their respective interviewers asked the age-old question: "Why did you decide to pursue medicine?" To be quite honest, I couldn't even remember what I answered. I'm sure I said stuff about how I enjoyed my hospital duties when I was a student nurse and that I wanted to pursue higher forms of learning, so to speak. But I clearly remembered that I told her about my diabetes and the only question my interviewer had for me was: "With your medical condition, are you prepared to handle the stress that medical school can give you?" I stopped short at that question. Could I do it? Could I actually handle the stress? Stress that I have never known before I stepped into medical school? Blindly, I answered my interviewer with "Yes, I am prepared to handle the stress that medical school can give me."
Fast forward to four years later. Junior internship currently in the picture, graduation in the near horizon. How am I faring? Good question. So far, I have survived my first three years which took place in classrooms, lecture halls, and the occasional doctor's clinic. I have survived 8-hour long lectures, sleepless nights, cramming transcriptions and notes, and taking grueling week-long exams. But as for my fourth and final year in medical school? That is another story. In the five months that I have spent as a clerk/junior medical intern, I have experienced stress and pressure that, frankly, I have not experienced before. Each rotation has something new to offer and may be a culture shock for some. Some of my classmates would probably say that I have seen nothing yet, as I have not yet rotated in most of the major departments. But isn't stress one and the same, regardless of its form and the situation where one experiences it?
In my opinion, it doesn't matter if you experience stress in Internal Medicine or in, let's say, Ophthalmology. Stress comes in different forms for medical clerks. Whether it is stress in finishing a paper in time, or referring a patient directly to the consultant (*coughPSYCHIATRYcough*), or presenting a case in front of your group mates and residents and consultants, or getting yelled at/reprimanded by your consultant/resident/group mate for making a mistake. The list goes on. In the end, all that matters is how you handled the situation and stress in the first place. Are you going to give in to your emotions, break down, blame someone else, and cry? Or will you put your chin up, apologize graciously for your mistake, do what you can to rectify it, and then go on your way?
It is so easy to do the former. Heck, I have done it once before. But what good will that do? Will it change anything, makes things easier? Hell no. I have learned that the latter is the more mature way of dealing with such situations (believe me, some people don't know the difference). It also keeps things harmonious between you and your group mates (you don't want to alienate them because you're stuck with them until graduation). But I digress.
Stress is stress. That's all. My advice is to just suck it up and take it one day at a time. Enjoy each patient you encounter and be thankful for the learnings. Remember, you are one day closer to becoming a fully equipped doctor.
Prove them wrong, I will. But I think I really really need a good, long vacation right now.