Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The second first day of the rest of my life

I had hyped myself up to expect the worst of today.

I had images of being a third year medical student all over again. Lost, confused, intimidated by every other person around me, scared out of my mind, and overwhelmed by the slightest thing.

It wasn't like that.

I did have to ask stupid questions. Questions like, "So, are we really diagnosing her with constipation?" " that normal?" "How do you print discharge instructions?"

Stupid questions are part of every learning curve.

As far as first days go, today was awesome. I felt on top of my game. I charmed the nurses, impressed my attending, had a patient tell me how wonderful I was. Not bad.

About halfway through my shift, I had a revelation.

I like medicine.

I've been trying to convince myself for years that I hate it. That medical school was the biggest mistake that I had ever made. That it was never going to be worth the sacrifices I had made. I've been depressed. I've been angry.

But today...I was happy.

I enjoyed seeing patients. I got excited over radiology reports and lab results.

For a moment, I was able to forget about the Power Point presentations about depression and suicide and divorce rates among resident physicians. I was able to forget about my bitterness about the things I've given up and missed out on.

Today, I felt like a doctor. And today, it felt like a pretty amazing thing to be.

(Although it will never be better than my real job of raising Bug and Monkey.)

During busyness of the emergency room, I was approached by a medical student who had come down to admit one of my patients to the hospital. She asked, rather timidly, about the patient's history. I started telling her about the patient's cancer, how the diagnosis was made, and about the complications she was currently experiencing.

Suddenly, I recognized all the emotions I experienced yesterday. All the feelings of being scared, overwhelmed, intimidated, lost, and confused were painfully obvious on the wide-eyed medical student in front of me.

"Hold on. What year are you?"

"I'm a third year medical student...And it's my first day." She looked like she was ready to cry. I could already see the signs of stress and sacrifice in her face.

"Okay, come sit down and I'll tell you exactly what your resident needs to know. Here are the patient's outside records. It's going to be okay. It's my first day too. And I'm pretty sure we're feeling the same way."

We talked about the patient. She thanked me. Then she left to report to her senior resident.

I learned two things from that interaction.

First, that I should always take the time to make someone's day a little easier. I sure wish someone had sat me down and said "Okay, this is how you do it." That a welcome smile and a little guidance can make a big difference.

And the second thing...

Wow, I've come a long way.


  1. Good for you for helping someone else. I bet she's grateful, I'm glad you had a good day. Because you + doctor = awesomeness.

  2. Dear Dr.
    I just wanted to thank you for treating me through the long course: you see, I have a terminal case of parenthood. Thank you for letting me know it will be all right! You were cut out to be what you are. And I wanted you to know: it will get BETTER! XOX

  3. That's so great, Katherine! I'm glad you're happy and that you're excited about what you're doing.

    It sounds to me like you might one day make a very good teacher...If you wanted.

  4. Good for you! You're going to do very well. I'm sure you made an impression on that student that she will fall back on many times throughout her own schooling and residency. You're a good woman, Katherine. :)

  5. Wow, crazy!!! Congratulations Katherine!

  6. What a great blog...I just had a little time to blog hop tonight and enjoyed your blog. Happy 4th of July!!