Subtitle: One of the many reasons why MS3 year is hard
The first two years of medical school are like the school we’re used to growing up. You have class, you have tests on a specific subject, you get your grade and move on to something else. Then third year begins.
Third year we are thrown into the hospital. It’s what we came to medical school for and it’s where the true bulk of the learning happens. But it also means rotating through different specialties every 8 weeks, and different teams every 2-4 weeks. Something completely different all the time. Third years are the very bottom of the medical professional food chain, and we are constantly having to adapt to different personalities, seeing different medical conditions, different schedules etc, etc.
And on top of that, we don’t know anything.
Okay, we know some things. The first two years of classroom learning are absolutely necessary so that all of the conditions and diseases we are dealing with aren’t complete foreign. But translating book knowledge into real-life patients is really hard! We get put on the spot with questions and are told to do things we have no idea how to do every single day. Trying to fit all the pieces of a physical exam, patient history, labs and scans together to come up with a diagnosis in a span of a few minutes is enough to make my head spin.
Don’t get me wrong, third year is incredible. The learning happens so quickly. We are finally helping with real patient care and it’s way better than sitting in lectures.
But as high achieving students that are used to getting things right, it can be really taxing to be wrong so much. Medicine is so complex and there are a million things to consider with every patient, and a huge part of medical school and residency is learning how to do that. Since this is the first time we are ever in the hospital, we are the very worst at it. We are still learning how to take good histories, perform the necessary physical exam, report it all back to the physician and come up with a proper assessment and plan. It’s going to take a long time to get all that right.
So nearly every day I feel like an idiot. I feel like I’m so behind, that everyone knows more than me, and that I’ll never figure it out. My mind goes blank when I’m asked a question, I totally forget to ask a patient something crucial, or I stumble through my presentation. Maybe the physician teaches me in a way that feels a little harsh, or maybe I’m just flat out exhausted. All that wears on me! It’s not good for self-confidence to be wrong so often. It’s completely defeating and yet super motivating at the same time. It’s part of the process.
Most residents and attendings are so helpful and understanding of where we are in our medical training. They remember what it’s like, and they teach well. But they still evaluate us on our performance, and at this point my performance just isn’t that great.
Truthfully, it takes a lot of pep talks and venting sessions with friends to get through third year (and I’m only 9 weeks in!) We have to share the really cool things we’ve gotten to do and ride those highs in order to get through the lows. As always, I’m incredibly grateful for the people in my life that are willing to listen and remind me of my “why” and my worth when I’ve had a bad day. Those relationships are invaluable.
So here’s your reminder:
- You are not alone. Everyone is going through similar things as you. No one is getting it all right.
- This is part of the process. No one expects you to know everything right now.
- Everyone is allowed bad days, including the doctors. If they are short or snappy, give them some grace and know it’s nothing personal. But keep those times in mind when thinking about how to treat others.
- Work your freaking hardest. Read read read! Ask questions and be endlessly curious!
- Take care of yourself. Eat well, exercise, and spend time with family and friends. Meditation, yoga, and journaling can work wonders. Professional help is nothing to be ashamed of.
- YOU ARE AMAZING. Period.