Archive for October, 2010

Vacation . . . Kind of.

October 18, 2010

Got back a few weeks ago from 3 months of “sub-internships.” They are classes/rotations in which you are theoretically supposed to act as an intern (1st year resident). It’s a good way to start learning how to be a good intern, a chance to get involved in the nitty gritty parts of taking care of patients, and an opportunity to visit other programs to show them just how awesome you are and how they should take you on as an intern next year. On the other hand, the 80 hour work-week, not exactly respected among most surgical programs anyway, doesn’t extend to students. Together with the programs more or less wanting to see what you’re made of, they make it a point to work you HARD. But it’s over, I don’t think I hurt my chances at those programs, and I have four weeks off.

Or at least I did have 4 weeks off until yesterday, when I got antsy and scheduled a (relatively) low key 2-week pathology class for myself. On the other hand, got to play soccer and frisbee last week, and I’ve started fencing again.  Enjoying spending hours at a time reading, and yes, the occasional video game. Life could be a lot worse now.

I’ve also started to get invites to interview for residency positions. Together with the sub-internships, they have kind of made the whole future life in surgery thing a lot more real. Plus, the idea that I won’t have more than a week off at a time for a long long time. I know you guys out there in the working world are already aware of it, but man, it’s a scary thought . . .

Medicine isn’t as fulfilling day to day as one might think. I had an interesting conversations with the first year medical students that share the house with me. The hospital is one huge layer-cake of human suffering, with scores of rooms on each floor containing a person or two having the worst (or if not THE worst, at least in the bottom 5) day of their life, in a building 14 stories tall. At the end of a 14 hour day you’re tired and beat, spending the day helping patients get better, or at least trying to keep them from getting worse. They’re all having a shitty time of it, and almost to a man (or wo-man) they could probably benefit from someone sitting down and hanging out with them for a few minutes. On Scrubs, they have scenes from time to time where JD or whomever sits down exhausted at the end of their day, at the bedside of a patient, props their legs up on the bed, and just hangs out with the patient. They shoot the shit, or they just both fall asleep, with the patient reassured that they’re not alone.

But leaving the hospital after that 14 hour day, struggling to keep your and your team’s (and thus your patients’) heads above water, you know you COULD take another 5 or 10 minutes out of your spare time to spend with a patient. But usually you don’t. Because you’re tired, and in a hospital of over 800 patients, you can’t help everyone. So you go home.

The young ‘uns charge into medical school looking forward to spending time with their patients, eager to heal, and failing that, at least provide comfort. But sadly, there are so many people that could use your time, you’re overwhelmed so fast. My first and second year, I learned the limit of my intellect, of how much I can cram into my head in a given amount of time. And in my third and fourth year I learned the limit of my compassion and energy, where you must draw a line between being with someone who is suffering, and taking time for yourself.

On the other hand, babies get born, people make recoveries, and there are some positives to be found if only one cares to look for them. So my goal for the rest of my 4th year here, in the waning months of my time in medical school, is to get better at finding those positives 🙂