|One semester does not a medical doctor make
With my first
semester as a medical student drawing to a close, I often find myself
wondering, ‘Am I different yet?’ Have I made that magical change that
equals a physician? I feel like I can say with absolute confidence, no,
awkward at times, oh so awkward. Such as when I ask patients if I can
palpate between their ribs near the breast and report back to them that
‘Everything looks good.’ Or when I fumble around with questions about
the ease of patients’ ability to clean themselves and undertake the
necessities, such as toileting. Inquiries such as that seem to offend
societal norms, which I’ve been trained to adhere to for 20 some years.
It definitely requires quite a bit of time and a few self pep talks to
get in there and overcome the intrinsic desire to wince at the
awkwardness that seems to emanate from me.
Once when explaining this feeling to my mother, she fell back on the
oldest trick in the book, ‘oh, that’s easy… You should just imagine the
patients in their underwear.’ Ironically, this is often not something
that needs to be left to my imagination.
However, despite my inner awkward-fest, patients are beyond forgiving
with our constant intrusion into their lives and, in fact, seem to take
comfort in my interest. I learned this firsthand when I interviewed my
senior mentor, a senior citizen who has agreed to supplement my
understanding of the needs of geriatric patients. I asked her an
assortment of questions about her lifestyle and the changes she’s
noticed in her body during the aging process. While I have gained a
sense of intimacy between us, I have yet to bring myself to ask the
question that offends the unspoken rule of aging women: Exactly how old
are you? While I think that is totally within the limits of a
reasonable interview, it’s a question that definitely symbolizes my
inability to completely let go of my former restraints.
Yet despite my constant inner battles, from time to time I see a
glimmer of my future self shining through. One such occasion can be
understood only in the context of the fabulousness that is my luxurious
kitty: Penelope. This cat equals a sense of home to me. It is somehow
necessary for me to know that someone or some fur ball is awaiting my
return from the library each night. Over the Thanksgiving holiday,
during my furious effort at a pumpkin cheesecake, Penelope slipped out
the side door and went on an adventure of her own. Once I had realized
that my apartment was deficient one wad of fur, I went into freak-out
I flew out into the backyard of my apartment complex, trudging through
bushes and crying out for the missing cat. After 20 minutes of frantic
and unsuccessful efforts, I went back into the apartment to regroup. I
had let the stress of work I had piling up manifest and compound the
issue of the missing cat. Upon observing that my cloudy mind overrun
with emotion was doing me no justice, I came to the realization that
sometimes you have to quit crying, pick yourself up, and just go find
your cat. I’m happy to say Penelope was found and the gained philosophy
has served me well in overcoming the daily patience-trying obstacles I
seem to face.
of Little River is a first-year medical student.
This column follows the journey of her class in becoming doctors.
Friday, Dec. 3, 2010