Can you believe I am a full two months into third year already? Time is flying by or maybe time isn’t flying. I’m on the neurology service right now so the questions of consciousness are clearly being examined in almost all of my patients. I think last year I mentioned how cool I thought our neuro class was and how much I enjoyed the coursework. I have to say that while it is very interesting, one of the most nerve-racking (excuse the pun) things about my day is the sheer number of patients who have suffered devastating alterations in their mental status. From strokes to unyielding seizures to the completely mysterious comatose, I’ve watched families cry and seen those with no visitors. I can’t say that there aren’t happy endings because I am sure that there are but this is much more difficult that I ever could have imagined.
Studies suggest that stresses due to difficult situations increase medical student burnout. I can attest to being infinitely more exhausted when I get home, partly because I think I have to emotionally deal with seeing so much suffering. We all start medical school wanting to help people and truly believing in the idea of first do no harm yet I struggle doing my coma exam because the thought of noxious stimuli is almost enough to make me cry, and it’s not even being done to me. While this is just a part of medicine that we all must learn, it’s proving to be harder and harder for me. Call me a softy I know but I’m pretty sure that critical care medicine is definitely not in the cards for me.