The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly details the author’s journey from intern year of residency to becoming a second-year resident in the end. As one who is about to graduate medical school and enter internship next summer, this was a nice illustration of some of the dilemmas and emotions I certainly will encounter as a first-year resident. In residency, we will be working desperately to gain the knowledge and skills to become a practicing physician, but we must keep in mind that our number one priority is to look out for patients, not necessarily ourselves. We must place pride, shame, and fear behind us to ensure we are providing the best care we can for patients; even if that entails asking what we may perceive are silly questions, asking for help when we worry about appearing incompetent, having a more senior physician performing a procedure that we have not yet mastered.
Primarily at the beginning of the story, Dr. McCarthy is constantly fixating on his mistakes and questioning his own medical decision-making. He undergoes consequences such as a persistent concern that he has contracted HIV through reckless needlestick and the reprimand of a neurologist for overlooking the possibility of a patient’s brain hemorrhage. A central theme of the book is that of overcoming impostor syndrome, or our inability to internalize and appreciate our own accomplishments. McCarthy does an excellent job reminding us that medicine is not just a science, but an art. Simply understanding the pathophysiology and the foundation of medicine is not enough. To become a reliable doctor, one must learn through practice and repetition and think outside the diagnosis. McCarthy focuses on the inevitable emotions that will come to play in the relationships we form with patients and the trepidation that comes with leading your first code. Despite the hurdles medical professionals encounter through their toughest years of training, we are constantly reminded through rewarding moments along the way that it is “through medicine it is possible to reach the unreachable—even the ones who most of us forget about or actively try to ignore. This is the power and beauty of our profession.”