Here’s a quick post-call ramble: I had a pretty bad night on call last night.*
And it was still better than medical school.
I hated med school.
In first year, I hated the loneliness. I had went in hoping for intelligent conversation with the country’s cream of the crop and at least initially, I could not find it. What I found was a narrow-minded and selfish little campus, and I hated it.
Years later I would learn that med students around the country – and sometimes around the world – have felt the same.
During second year, I hated how nothing I learned seemed relevant to practice. I could not make the jump from what I saw in paper to what I would learn practically the following year, and so it felt like a waste of time.
Third year came, and I hated being the skivvy. Abused by fourth, fifth and sixth years alike, and blamed for anything that went wrong in a ward round or a clinic.
It went on like that. I hated that we worked long hours doing grunt work for the doctors, who got PAID for that grunt work. I hated that nobody seemed to care about our safety or our wellness, that our lives seemed cheap to the government, hospital administration and faculty.
I hated that nobody cared to keep us from becoming disillusioned.
I hated the selfishness I saw festering in my colleagues. I hated noticing how our passions died, how we began to work just hard enough to get through the day. Dreams clinical and humanitarian prowess fell by the wayside, and we shuffled forward towards that degree like zombies past their expiration dates.
I hated how any complaint was met with, “But that’s the way it has always been, and it won’t change.”
I hated how I was studying one of the fastest growing fields, and yet all I saw around me was stagnant water. There was nothing to excite us. Nothing spurring us on to become game-changers in our world.
I hated how having other hobbies was seen as a weakness, a sign of lack of devotion to medicine. “Medicine is a jealous lover” they would say, and suggest that one might want to reconsider.
Medicine eats her young, I say, and it tried to devour us all.
I hated medical school. The great things that happened to me during my university years – the Hunan trip, Semester at Sea, Student Government – those were all things I grasped at to keep me afloat. They were in spite of, and not because of, med school.
Let’s be clear: UNIVERSITY was a great time of growth and adventure in my life. But MED SCHOOL was just a part of that. Med school was the portion I hated.
Med School is over now (and good riddance) and I can actually say: I like my job. Some days it frustrates me. Some days it makes me cry. My exact path with medicine in the future is uncertain, because there are so many options. And yes, I deserve to be happy and fulfilled, so I will make my ultimate decisions with that in mind. Some days I even get to say I LOVE my job.
At its best, it fills me with excitement for all its potential. At its very worst, it is a job that pays the bills. Certainly, when I wake up in the mornings I would love nothing more than to roll over and sleep a little longer, followed by spending the day in the sun, reading. Certainly, at three o’clock in the morning when we have three emergency C-sections lined up and several more patients waiting to be seen, I feel miserable, and a little bitter that so many people get to have stable sleeping patterns and “normal” jobs.
But overwhelmingly, I have been satisfied by my job. It is only three months in, and I’m certain there will be times that are much worse and (hopefully) also times that are better.
Many people hate med school and hate their jobs too. I’ve got no proof that it won’t happen to you. I’m not saying there is not a whole lot wrong with the world of medicine. I’m not saying you’re wrong if you think you need to quit medicine – I don’t KNOW you.
But I am saying: Medical School is NOT Medicine. Don’t think that just because you hate med school – which is a warped little world – you will hate being a doctor, too.
I hated med school, and if you’re the medical student that hates it too, that’s okay. It is a lie that loving med school is a prerequisite for becoming a good doctor. You are allowed to hate it. But you are deserving of happiness. Find things to love. Find adventures to live. Find warm currents to keep you afloat. Med school is what you do to get your degree; life is what you do to be happy.
*I’ll write about it some other time.
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