Ever since I started my third year of medical school, I have wondered if I would have to change my inner core of introversion, in order to succeed in my clinical clerkships. Even before starting third year, I had heard that attendings wanted students who were willing to put themselves and speak up at all times. I had also heard that extroverted students with that sense of charisma also ended up doing well. What would be my prospects as a lifelong introvert?
As an introvert, I listen more than I speak and I think before weighing in on a conversation. Yet, this neither makes me a disinterested student with no opinion nor does it make me a pushover who carelessly sides with the majority for non-specified reasons. Rather, I like to think that I’m a critical thinker who juggles all the perspectives and makes an informed decision. In doing so, I can voice the reasoning behind my decision and effectively communicate the points at hand. As one of my mentors once told, “You may be quiet, but when you speak, people listen.” With that advice, I went into third year fairly hopeful that people would respect my personality and find it refreshing.
For most of third year, though, I have been labeled as quiet. While my quiet nature was sometimes misinterpreted as a lack of interest or as a limited fund of knowledge, I was able to bounce back by being creative and resourceful during rounds and overall patient care. I read up on topics pertaining to my patients and would find landmark journal articles that I could then reference when I was pimped on rounds. I followed the general rule of doing right by the patient at all times and to me, that meant knowing as much as possible about my patient’s conditions, communicating the knowledge that I had, and understand the biopsychosocial basis of the patient’s environment. By working hard behind the scenes, I think I was able to show my attendings and residents that I do know my stuff in a non-traditional way. When it comes down to it, medicine really is an art and it’s crazy to believe that a one-size-fits-all extroverted personality would appeal to all aspects of patient care. Although being an introvert isn’t easy in a field where I work with a sea of self-confident, charismatic, and intelligent mentors and peers, I know that I have an inner sense of calm and intellect that can also help patients everyday.