It’s almost the halfway point of third year and even though I have completed rotations in psychiatry, surgery, and family medicine, I still feel a little lost. Maybe not lost in the physical sense, since I am able to find my way through the various halls of the interconnected hospitals and be where I need to be at the appropriate times. Yet, I am lost in my constant struggle to balance my responsibilities as a student doctor.
Gone are the days within my comfort zone when I only had to recognize buzzwords and symptoms on paper. Now, my days consist of juggling attending and resident expectations, recognizing sometimes nebulous symptoms in patients, and finding ways to manage patients’ illnesses given financial burdens, homelessness, and lack of social support. On top of that, there’s the endless amount of reading: reading about the patients I see in clinic, reading about the zebras that I don’t get to see on the wards, and reading primary literature to see the evidence behind some of the treatment plans I see being put into action.
I have to come to realize that despite all the struggles, this is real learning in all dimensions. Previously, I had only been learning in two dimensions by listening to lectures and reading and regurgitating it all on the test. And, to be honest, I don’t think I want to go back to two-dimensional learning. I want to be challenged and be that much closer to becoming a competent physician. In fact, I have come to terms with being a little lost all the time, as long as I don’t stay lost forever. Being in third year with real patients has been a humbling experience, one that has taught me to be more flexible and go with the flow as patients rarely present like the textbook case and hospital courses don’t always go according to plan.