Demanding for Your Education

The only thing a med student has to complain about is being completely ignored.

The intern and I burst into laughter at the sad truth of his statement that resolved into, well, frank sadness at the truth of his statement. 

I thought we worked hard as med students, but interns and residents make our workload look like child’s play. Around 7PM the night before the first day of my vascular surgery rotation, I texted the intern, a friend who graduated from my school just a couple months prior, to ask when and where I should meet the team that morning for pre-rounding. He didn’t text me back the entire night, and I thought, “Hey, man. Rude.” When I woke up at 4:30AM the next morning (I heard through the grapevine that they meet at 5:15AM), I had a text on my phone with a 3:30AM timestamp. Later in the day, I asked if he was reaaaaaally up that early. “Yeah, we have to get here a little bit earlier than you guys do,” he shrugged and yawned immodestly. The poor guy was probably asleep when I texted him the night before! Or, at least I hope he was.

In my first eight weeks of third year on my surgery rotation, I’ve learned that a lot of our education from now on will be self-study. I’ve never been one to learn best from sitting and reading a book, but it’s definitely something I’ve come to accept and will need to learn to be better at.  In that same vein (lol vascular surgery joke…get it?), I’ve found that learning from the patients right in front of me, with the guidance of attendings and residents with whom we work closely, extremely valuable and rewarding. I’ve met some awesome, eager teachers so far, but I’ve also met some pretty unfriendly, cold, and downright condescending superiors who make learning (and honestly, breathing the same air as them) a discouraging challenge.

Med students are afraid of being “pimped” by attendings and residents, but as much as it sucks feeling like an incompetent idiot, being ignored is an even worse scenario. A family med resident told me a tale of how, during med school, she was told by the OR tech to “Go stand behind the soiled linens container.” Like really? Could anything else be more dismissive?!

The fact of the matter is paying nearly $55,000 a year to stand still on the sidelines is just absurd. It’s something I struggle with because I’m of slowing down the team or being annoying, but I’m slowly learning to be more proactive in my education by asking questions, even if I may look dumb. (True story: I went through nearly a week of vascular surgery not knowing what a BKA (below knee amputation) and AKA (above knee amputation) were because I was too afraid to ask). I mean, these are experts in a host of fields and I’m so lucky to be able to pick their brains (ugh, I hate this phrase) about their specialties and passions. If the question isn’t received well, well, maybe that person needs to remember what it was like to be a third year med student with hardly any clinical experience to her name! And maybe he or she is just a grumpy person and we shouldn’t take that personally. 

Ultimately,  I owe it to my future patients to demand for my education and learn as much as I can. Because becoming a superstar doctor who can really serve my future patients is what this whole med school shebang all about. 

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