Dear Doctor, From A Med Student

Dear Doctor

I’m writing to ask you please to not do that thing.

You know what I’m talking about.

It’s a Saturday morning, or the middle of the night on an overnight call, or whatever: it is a time of day that nobody wants to be working. And we are working. Maybe we are working on the same service, maybe I don’t know you from a bar of soap.

I am sitting in the doctors’ room writing notes for the latest patient that arrived in our care. You come in and sit next to me, looking for results on the computer or making notes for your own patient or maybe just drinking a coffee.

You see the design of my name badge so you know that if everything goes well, I will graduate by the end of the year and be one of your colleagues.

Then: you let out a long sigh and say loudly, “You know, it’s not too late to walk away and change your career.”

Crick-crick…

I’m not sure, Dear Doctor, what your intention with that sentence is. I’m not even sure what you hope my response will be.

But, as my senior, you should know how VERY uncomfortable it is when you say that.

Because actually, it IS too late. I’ve been studying this degree for six long years and I’ll be damned if I pack it up now, so close to graduation, just because I’m upset with the infrastructure or the working hours. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to give up instead of trying to do something about it.

Of course it’s never really too late if one is truly miserable; but I am not, so I hope you are not trying to project onto me.

You are my senior and when you say things like that, it is so overfamiliar that I don’t know what to do. Is this a test? Am I supposed to laugh it off and say I’m not bothered, or will you then take me to be a naïve little student? And if I were to respond seriously and discuss the pros and cons, would you brush me off and tell me you were just making small-talk, or be disappointed by my “weakness”?

Have you forgotten, Dear Doctor, the nature of medical training? It has changed in many ways, but it has always been a form of apprenticeship, and besides knowledge and skills, the other thing we must learn is attitude.

You are supposed to teach me how to cope with this often-difficult job, not scare me away when I am this close to entering the workforce. Not at this stage. Not when we are this close.

Dear Doctor: it’s AWKWARD, to be very honest. So I’ll just keep quiet because it’s late and I’m tired and maybe you aren’t even expecting a response.

And if you say it because YOU are having doubts: I understand that doubts are normal. But if you need to unload and debrief, I strongly suggest that you approach your friend or colleague or even better, a therapist, because I can hardly remember the dosages of antibiotics, so you really shouldn’t trust me with your mental health.

Sincerely

Final Year Medical Student

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11 thoughts on “Dear Doctor, From A Med Student”

  1. So many doctors told me that they would never study medicine again if they had a choice. I also never know what to respond to that. It’s not exactly motivating to hear that, especially if you are in your last year and have invested a lot of time, money and heart into your studies.

    1. It’s such a hard thing. I know a lot of doctors feel like they wouldn’t do it again, and sometimes they have great reasons, and it can be conveyed with sensitivity. I just wish they wouldn’t go around sharing that without being asked. Just because one doesn’t like one’s profession anymore doesn’t mean they should discourage everyone, right?

  2. Ugh. That’s the worst thing. I had so many people try to talk me out of medical school before I started and it was always frustrating and awkward. It didn’t happen as much when I was already in med school because everyone knew we were all in far too much debt already to turn back. But still, it’s annoying to hear someone try to tell you “it’s not worth it” when you didn’t ask them in the first place. I guess in some ways, if I could have been talked out of it that easily before I started, I probably didn’t belong in the first place. It’s still, like you said, awkward though.

    1. That’s exactly it – “when you didn’t ask them in the first place”!! Like, if I ask their opinion sure, but not out of the blue! Good point about being talked out of it so quickly though.

  3. The worst. Sometimes I think people don’t think. At the same time, it is nice to know other people sometimes have those doubty or AHH moments, but really, it isn’t a fair statement or question or whatever it is.
    It happens elsewhere too. My husband has heard that kind of thing more than once in the teaching world. I mean, way to discourage the future of your profession.
    You can do it!

    1. Thanks Trisha! I’m all for people sharing their doubts with each other, but I think it should be done in a peer-to-peer kind of setting. When I have doubty moments, I talk to my fellow sixth year students about it and we all commiserate together. I would NEVER think of telling a junior student my doubts because that’s just not fair towards them. I can totally see how it’s a common occurrence in the teaching world too.

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