With a new crop of 3rd year medical students making their way through their final exams and getting prep’d for Step 1 I’ve thought about what 3rd year truly entails. Essentially it involves 2 things: confusion and humiliation.
First, confusion occurs based on your concrete belief in what you’ve learned from your books, what you’ve inculcated for Step 1, and the honest-to-God belief that you know what field you want to enter. 3rd year throws all of this out the door. I remember wanting to be an ER physician. I remember believing I knew a lot about congestive heart failure and treatment.
Then, Internal Medicine, my first rotation, completely turned my world upside down. ER was suddenly despised due to the patient aspect, CHF was complicated, and patients scared the hell out of me. Everyday I just hoped that I could answer enough of someone’s questions to not get yelled at. Answers that had been satisfactory for Step 1 were no longer "current treatment regimens". I was frustrated and confused.
The second is humiliation. And by this I mean the humiliation that accompanies the medical student as they traverse the harrowing halls of hospital wards, talk to patients without betraying the forbidden secret that they are scared to death of them, and attempting to maintain some semblance of your pride as much as possible while being humiliated by every aspect of hospital employee.
“Do you know how to draw blood? No? What a tool!”
“Do you know how to put in a foley catheter? What? Even my grandmother knows how to do that!”
"Can you find a mop and clean that up? What? No?! Fuck you!
In some parts of the hospital the phones are complicated, thus relegating you to asking how to answer your resident’s call as they return your page.
“What a dumbass you must be – how’d you get to be a medical student?”
You wonder why the nurses yell, attendings scoff, and residents roll their eyes. You’re trying, but it’s never enough. And just as you begin to feel comfortable and start to appreciate your surroundings your rotations end, your month schedule changes, or your attending/ resident changes. The confusion and humiliation remain as constant as the smell of ripe feces and sterile scrub on the internal med floor.
So, tread softly oh ye brave soon-to-be 3rd year medical students. It’s not always bad, but it’s definitely a trip.