I hope you are well. I just got back from Hawaii (I know, I know, don’t hate me). I am just the right amount of hung over, sunburned and jetlagged, which if you ask me is the perfect frame of mind to provide you with some unsolicited advice. You’re welcome.
I would bet, that if you stood in front of graduating medical school classes and asked everyone to raise their hand if they thought 3rd year was the hardest year of medical school, I would guarantee that almost everyone would raise their hands—that yes, indeed 3rd year is the hardest year you will endure out of your time here.
This is why I had to go to Hawaii. My soul had to heal. Because it was one helluva year. During my vacation I had time to think about what information and advice would have been helpful for me to have before starting the year. I also visited a Seahorse sanctuary and saw baby seahorses, so there’s that.
The thing is that most people who have done even 1 rotation, really want to tell you about their personal experience. Myself included. Can you blame us? We survived—and we want to tell you about how we did it. The thing is I can almost promise you that you will have a different experience than anyone you talk to. That’s just life.
So I have compiled some helpful tidbits of wisdom, mostly devoid of my own personal experiences with the rotations (email me if you’re going to Redding, I have things to tell you). I hope these little nuggets will be helpful to you. They are the things I wish someone would have told me. And if you read no further, know this—you will make it through this year. I promise. We’re behind you, every step of the way.
1. Don’t lie, but you probably will.
You’ve probably heard this one before. Like don’t say the patient’s potassium is 3.5 if you are only sure that its 3 point something. Seems reasonable right? But sometimes a resident will be like hey, “is she constipated?” And you’ll be like, “Um…no, don’t think so.” And then it will turn out that she is and blah blah, makes you look not very good. This kind of thing actually happens fairly often—just try to make sure the response that comes out of your mouth is, “I’m not sure,” or “Hmmmm….unclear.” or “I did not specifically ask her about that.” Its just better for everyone you know. So have some response always on the tip of your tongue that resembles I don’t know.
2. You’ll never find anything or know where you are going.
You are going to be asked to grab things. And its completely unfair because likely you will have no idea where anything is, let alone the code to open the clean utility room. You ever used to watch the show Legends of the Hidden Temple? Used to be one of my favorites. Anyway if you didn’t experience Nickelodeon in the 90s, its basically kids running through a maze trying to find a statue—you see them rummage and fumble around trying to find this impossible-to-find thing quickly. That will be you. Go Team Barracuda! You’ll never find anything (at least not within the predetermined time limit). Honestly, best thing is to ask someone else—beg for help—usually works.
Okay I know I wouldn’t tell you about my own experience, but just this once. On the last day of third year, on the last day of my surgery rotation, we were in the OR and the attending looks at me and says, “find me a piece of blue foam.” Yea, sure buddy. That sounds readily available and easy to find. So I knelt down next to the supply cart, about to announce that I—once again—was unable to procure the needed item….when, there it was. A perfect piece of random blue foam sitting where it definitely should not have been. I grabbed it, still kneeling, and held it up to the surgical lights. The heavens opened and the Hallelujah chorus played. And that my friend will never happen to you.
3. You want to be a doctor when you grow up, not a third year medical student. This one really should go without saying, but as you go through this year, remember that this is just temporary and not the state of being you will be in for the rest of your life. You will be in charge and make decisions and command other people. Being the bottom of the rung and constantly following behind other people—that won’t always be you. No one puts baby in a corner. Except you this year—sorry.
4. Your white coat will not stay white. Whether you spill coffee on it, or perhaps have a very unfortunately incident with a blueberry yogurt, its just going to get gross. Try to get a spare one if you can. I still have no idea how to do that. Drying cleaning is your friend. Blueberry stains no matter how much bleach you use.
5. You are never alone. I mean, at 4am pre-rounding on East 6—yes you may physically be alone, but we’re never far away. Lots of people are doing this with you. Get together and talk about what’s its been like. It feels so good. Use the doctoring check in time. Amazingly cathartic.
6. Let yourself off the hook. Not everything and every interaction is going to go right. Trust me I wish it did, but it just isn’t going to. That’s okay. You’re human and you’re trying your best and that counts for a great deal of this year. Show up on time, have paper and pen (I refuse to carry those stupid folding clipboards because I pinched my hand in it once—never again), try to look interested or at least awake. Getting up early does sort of get easier—remember I said sort of. Warning: you will likely loose the ability to sleep in (at least temporarily). Try not to be the dick who wakes up your whole house, dog, significant other when they are trying to sleep like a normal person. Its rude. And you are now a morning person. Welcome.
7. Drink hospital coffee with caution. You know usually its lukewarm. Like everyday for the last year it has been—the one time its piping hot you’ll burn your mouth. You’ve been warned.
8. Some doors in the hospital you have the push to open them. Some doors in the hospital you have to pull to open. Good luck figuring out which is which.
9. You are loved. You are so desperately and insanely loved and valued. And this year it may not often feel that way. Just because you are now a 3rd year does not change the fact that you are a good, loving, kind human being who should be shown respect and kindness. People may be mean or ignore you. That’s on them, not on you.
10. It doesn’t get easier or better, but it does get over. The same struggles I had during my first rotation, I had during my last. There are just truths about being a 3rd year that never change. I still struggle with feeling confident and knowing what I’m doing. And I still feel like I have lots to learn. But you’re going to do it all in spectacular fashion and at the end of it all you can drag yourself to Hawaii like half of my class did.
11. For God sake do not leave studying for the shelf until the last minute, you’ve been warned. These are good lectures for most of the rotations.http://som.uthscsa.edu/StudentAffairs/thirdyear.asp
12. You will do good things that help people that will never show up on your evaluations. Holding someone’s hand, making someone more comfortable, whatever it is-- you’ll do good in a million tiny hidden ways. Just because they are not seen or not documented does not mean they didn’t happen and it doesn’t make them less important or meaningful. I see you and you see you—that matters most, keep at it.
And if you lose your motivation I like to watch these, I find the intro oddly inspiring.
Go forth my brave warriors. The Class of 2018 is here if you need us, anytime, all the time.
Third year looks good on you.