The Untold Life of a Med Student
It’s 6:30. I have eaten dinner – a microwavable meal – and have half a pot of coffee to get me through the night. I have been up since about 6 am studying, with bouts of lecture punctuating my day. I will study until roughly midnight, go to bed, then do it all again tomorrow.
This is my life. This is the glamour of being a 2nd year med student.
Some days it really sucks.
I recently caught up with a buddy who goes to another medical school. We talked about our experiences and the perception people have when they learn we are in medical school. Non-medical personal might as well be the muggles of our world. They look in with curiosity and the assumption that, like Grey’s Anatomy, my life is awash in beautiful women, drama, and the type of lifelong friendships one always dreams of. Unfortunately that couldn’t be further from the truth. Right now most of my life is spent reading medical texts.
The constant studying would be forgivable if we only studied the interesting parts of medicine. But on this particular night I have spent an hour reading about different types of transfusion reactions. Before that I dove into the intricacies of different psychiatric medications, teasing out which double as sedatives, which help with neuropathic pains, and which I can use for an incontinent patient. The truth is that a good portion of medicine is, well… boring. Unfortunately most diseases we learn about are not House-like medical mysteries.
What about the patients I do get to see? They are far from the idealized patients displayed on T.V. Many are elderly or in poor health with multiple comorbid conditions. For every rare presentation there are 20 pneumonias, 15 heart failures, and 10 COPDs (that is probably an understatement). On T.V. patients appear composed; in real life they are likely to have multiple orifices with fluids coming out. Needless to say, most patients do not appear like they just got done with their Glamour Shots.
I love medicine, I honestly and truly do. But sometimes I hate how much it controls my life. I have a stack of books that are awaiting my attention, half written stories that need to be finished, and tons of bicycling adventures needing to be had. Not to mention all of the travel opportunities, friends and family that have been neglected over the last years.
I don’t mean to complain. I am extremely lucky to be where I am. I really do feel fortunate to be on a career path I love, especially when so many don’t end up in medical school. But sometimes I am frustrated by the completely inaccurate portrayal of medicine. I feel like these unfortunate stereotypes are only getting worse as people see healthcare costs rising and vilify doctors as the cause. Half of my Thanksgiving was spent justifying a system that I am not even a part of yet.
In all honesty, being a doctor isn’t like what’s on T.V. It is hard work, day in and day out, as is the road to get there. But for every complaint above there are ten more reasons that I love it. I am proud to be on this road and I can’t wait to one day help patients. This is a rewarding path filled with excitement and daily revelations.
But I’ll be damned if it doesn’t suck sometimes.