The following are not the only lessons I’ve come to learn, for those are innumerable. They are just a few key things that I’d like to pass on from my personal experience, and things that I must remind myself of daily. In no particular order….
1. Learn what it takes to be a good intern – This was the first piece of advice that was given to me from my mentor Dr. Gilhooly, and proved to be incredibly valuable. The benefit of learning the responsibilities of an intern are two-fold: first, since becoming residents is our next major step as medical students, learning intern responsibilities will help us prepare. Secondly, if you’re striving to work at an intern level, you will be fulfilling and excelling in your responsibilities as a third and fourth year medical student.
Caveat: don’t mimic everything your intern or resident does, they’re human too. Cherry pick their strengths!
2. Balance – we’ve heard about this throughout medical school, balance your time to tend to personal and professional matters. This is much easier said than done. During the more time intensive rotations, it becomes difficult to do necessary things, such as spending time with your loved ones, or just going to the dentist, etc. Try to find ways to maximize your free time, without neglecting your professional and personal responsibilities. There is much to be learned from both aspects of life.
A solution for lack of time to exercise: P90X! An hour a day, at home – no time wasted going back and forth to the gym. So ‘Bring It!’, but sometimes the X brings it to you instead :-/
3. Appreciate Medicine – so cliche, though it’s quite true. Learn to appreciate the medicine you will practice, the interaction with patients, and the opportunity to learn the artistic side of this field. Communication is so vital to both your patients and the rest of your medical team. One of the more unflattering sides of medicine will be exposed to you, and that is how easy it is to become jaded and unfazed by the diseases that are plaguing your patients. One of the strategies that I try to employ to stave off such feelings is to meditate on how it would feel to be in your patient’s position. This doesn’t mean solely focusing on the disease-at-hand, but also considering the social issues that patient may also be dealing with, or other non-medical factors. One of the lessons taught to interns in the book The House of God is to remember that “the patient is the one with the disease,” and while this may be true, if we as care providers are unable to empathize with patients then how will we ever be able to confidently state that we have their best interests at heart with our medical decisions? This is just something to chew on….
And remember, this is one more year on your journey to becoming an excellent physician, so I’ll leave with a few inspiring words from Mos Def: “Move along my odyssey like blood through the artery, navigate the treacherous and make it seem effortless…” (though it will be anything but effortless!)