Month: November 2011

Why not you?

Today was excruciating.  Today I was full circle, one year of internship and any medical knowledge I felt I had is just gone.  I don’t even feel like I can read a chest x ray properly anymore.  It’s almost neanderthal, my system for interpretation involves many after-hours experiences (the kind where it’s just you and your pager is bleeping like crazy and a nurse shoves some random patients notes in your face and demands you read their xray because the team forgot), and the system is basically “fine”, “a bit crap”, “pretty bad”, and “really really bad – better call the med reg”.  You get away with it by using words like “patchy changes” and “large areas of opacification” and hope to God they don’t notice that you have no idea what you’re talking about.  You stop getting away with it when a boss (consultant) asks you to interpret one.  In front of everyone.  The med reg.  Two medical students.  The patient.  The patients mother.  The nurses.  You can’t say “that looks like shit, better do a gas”, you have to do it formally.  And comment on things like how well exposed it is, how much rotation, etc etc.  What they don’t tell you about medicine is that it is constant, ritual, humiliation.  In the US they call it ‘pimping’.  Today I got asked many things that I used to know the answer to in medical school, and now, after a year of throwing myself at my job and not reading anything, I know nothing.

However, I digress.  Because as much as I think I know nothing, I came across an old blog today, circa 2004, when I was studying for the GAMSAT, that monstrous 5 and a half hour entrance exam that involves 3 hours of mind-bending science.  In those posts I am lamenting knowing nothing.  How I wished I’d tried harder and bothered to learn chemistry in high school instead of taking an artier spin on things.  It’s surreal to look back on that person, who, 6 years ago, was having the exact same day I’ve had today.  Thinking they weren’t cut out for it, like their knowledge was going backwards, and so on.

Sometimes it all feels pointless to keep trying.  And that’s fine.  It’s okay, and probably normal to feel that way.  But it’s how we react to that feeling that counts.  Some of us wont question that feeling and will give up.  Some of us will fight it, lose, and give up.  Today I choose not to fight it, but to acknowledge that feeling, and keep on anyway.  I don’t think anything is ever lost in persistence.  So I started reading again, and funnily enough, it wasn’t nearly as hard is it was in med school, where I had little context, where it felt like people were throwing 5kg textbooks at my face from a firehose.  Today I read about my patients through the textbook.  Everything I’ve read so far reminded me of someone I’ve seen and it helped so much.  I repeat, there’s nothing to be lost in persistence.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.  – Marianne Williamson (not Nelson Mandela!)

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