Why we panic before exams

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond imagination.

Maryanne Williams was wrong.

Imagine having ploughed your life and soul into a degree for three years and having nothing to show for it… unless you continue for a further three years.

Third year medical school is like no-man’s land. It’s too late to leave graciously, but too early to envisage your degree.

It is this cusp that presents the very real threat of losing all that time and effort: not making it.

Leave now and you have to start over. Our credits are nearly worthless in most other degrees. It is no longer a matter of being “the only thing” you want to do. In fact, it may well be one of the many things you do or don’t want to do.

But that turn in the road has been passed.

It is now the only thing you can do. You must do.

Eventually you get to choose a specialty or become the Minister of Health or save the world; but finish the degree you must.

And so imagine the situation where and exam has the very real possibility of labelling you: BAD.

As with eggs, there is no such thing as a poor doctor, doctors are either good or bad.

Fuller Albright

Save face and leave? Or stay and become a substandard doctor?

I wrote this the night before my Internal OSCE, stricken with panic. I survived (and passed), but it does not change the truth of uncertainty expressed here.


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