MS2 Terrible Twos here. New to MiM, so here is a quick introduction. I am mom to a sweet nineteen month old boy who is into everything and lacks even the faintest inkling of self-preservation. In a former life I received a Bachelor's of Fine Arts from an art school here in the Bay Area, and worked for over a decade in advertising, marketing, corporate event design, apparel, and retail packaging design until I decided that pursuing a career in medicine was truly my dream. Thanks to a lot of hard work, a loving and patient husband, and tons of emotional support from friends and family, that dream has materialized and I am (as of last week) a second year medical student in the Bay Area in California.
Having just completed MS1, one of the most challenging aspects of the medical curriculum this year has been seeing through the text books, algorithms, power points, Quizlets, acronyms, mind maps, case studies, and patient vignettes and remembering that the purpose of all this learning is to support real, actual people with rich histories and complex emotions. The majority of my patient interactions feel so forced and so awkward – so robotic, scattered, and disjointed. I hear standardized patients describe their symptoms and feel myself responding stoically, without empathy to concerns like, “is this serious?”, or "am I going to die?" as I systematically wade my way through OLD CARTS and FED TACOS and remember what a relevant ROS might include for the few differentials I know to consider.
Throughout every standardized patient interaction, every practical exam, and even every time I have performed an H&P on a "real" patient in my school's student run free clinic, I feel as though what limits me from truly developing any sort of rapport with the patient in front of me, actual or standardized, is the tunnel vision that comes from trying to dot every i, cross every t, and check off each and every box on the syllabus.
I understand that there is a learning curve with all of this. As with many professional practices, the only way to get better at them is by doing them over and over again and I recognize that I'll be working toward that for the rest of my medical career. I suppose that what worries me is the fear that throughout my medical practice there will always be a syllabus to consider, be it a QI evaluation report, an insurance audit, filling in every blank on the EMR, or tending to some other system to which I am held accountable.
I would like to believe that all the the awkwardness of MS1 will start to subside as early as this summer when I volunteer at the free clinic -- that the relief of having completed one full year will allow me to relax a little and try to integrate the systematic thinking of MS1 into just another part of my experience and knowledge. My hope is that the breadth of my other experiences prior to coming to medical school, including being a mother, will begin to materialize within those interactions, allowing me to truly connect.
When did it happen for you? When do patients, even standardized ones, cease to present solely as a collection of their signs and symptoms and emerge as actual people, and what tools have you used to transcend the awkwardness of your early medical training?