What a week. Who knew the jump from being a medical student to a resident could be so big? My first day was Wednesday. I donned my long white coat and headed out the door at 4:30am to begin my rotation on GYN Oncology. I started pre-rounding on my patients, collecting vitals, lab results, fluid ins and outs – nothing I hadn’t done before as a medical student. After rounds, when the attending physician, fellow, and resident headed down to the OR, is when the terror began. All of a sudden my pager goes into overdrive with calls from the nurses. “Patient A is complaining of pain – what do you want to write for her? Patient B is tachycardic, what do you want to do? Patient C has drainage from her incision site, can you come take a look at it?” And as I stand at the patient’s bedside, a nurse and two nurse assistants eagerly await my response. I look down at the patient. And yes, I see a stapled incision down her abdomen. Draining pinkish fluid. Crap. Now what?!? As their eyes burn holes into the back of my head, I think to myself, “Man, I wish my last surgery rotation wasn’t 10 months ago…” Trying to use my brain was like trying to pedal the wheels on a very rusty bicycle. It just didn’t…want…to…work…
“Would you like me to place a pressure dressing doctor?” The clouds parted and the light of heaven shone down on me that moment. “Why yes, nurse! Yes, I would!”
As a brand spanking new intern, that’s the moment you realize that:
1. You are no longer a med student.
2. You are calling the shots.
3. You have no idea what you are doing.
Can you say PANIC?!?
Many times, my non-medical friends ask me if life in the hospital is really like what they have seen on T.V. Their idea of practicing medicine is composed of the life-saving heroism on ER, the incestuous romance of Grey’s Anatomy, and the intellectual masturbation of House. I am here to say that it is all baloney. If you really want to know what residency is like, the show to watch is Scrubs. And my present life resembles Season 1. The intern that doesn’t know what she’s doing. The nurses who go through this every June and graciously fill me in on the many things I don’t know. (“Doctor, I think you want to write for Morphine 2mg every 4 hours for her breakthrough pain, right?”) The senior physicians who expect you to know it all already (or at least pretend to).
Somehow, I think all of us medical students have the idea that when we start residency, our brains will somehow already be filled with the basic information necessary to take care of patients. Ha! If only it was that easy, my friends.