Triage is the act of assigning degrees of urgency to patients or situations, and at each stage of medical school this has consistently been an important skill to master. In my first two years, this involved learning specific groups of facts, in my third, this expanded to clinical care, and in my fourth-year, began to involve making more complex decisions about an individual patient’s care. However, throughout this time in medical school, there has always been another level of prioritization that often falls by the wayside. This is the process of balancing the importance of personal relationships and self-care with the constant demands of graduate education, and though this always seemed to be a difficult decision in any given moment, in retrospect the correct choice has always been clear.
There has rarely been a moment that I chose to spend completely with my wife, my family, or my friends that I have come to regret, and in contrast, the life events that I have missed continue to weigh on me. Of necessity, there is a balance that must be struck here, because at some times comfort has to be sacrificed to obtain the skills to become a good physician. But even in these times of abnegation, it is important to maintain perspective.
I’ve found that as I’ve progressed through my education, the importance of loved ones has become more prominent and it has become more second nature to make time for those that I care about. In the beginning, it is easy to get wrapped up in your own suffering at the expense of others, but as you adapt to the stressors of medical school the habit of ‘surviving’ to the next accomplishment or break can become ingrained. It would have been easy to fall into the trap of fulfilling your own self-prophesized martyrdom, pushing away friends and family until one day you break from your trance and realize that your relationships have withered. I have definitely leaned into this thought process at times but thankfully was fortunate to have often been pulled back to the real world by those that cared about me. I know this problem will only accelerate when I transition into residency but in the times where human contact seems most distant, I hope I will remember the lessons I took from my four years of med school.