Today marks our LAST day of classroom instruction. Let me repeat that, we are done sitting in classes…forever. It feels unreal to think that I have now amassed everything I need to know to pass my first board exam. And by amassed, I literally mean that somewhere among the thousands of pages of power point notes is everything that I need to know for my board exam. The unthinkable task of consolidating that information and transferring it into my long term memory bank is what the next 10+ weeks are for.
I took for granted the luxury of having days with just one or two 50 minute classes and the rest of the afternoon to run my errands and study until the late hours of the night. What awaits us next are 70 hour weeks in the hospital. Our schedules will no longer be malleable to our liking. Gone are the days of choosing not to go to your morning class because you can always watch it online later. We will be at the hospital when we’re tired, sleep deprived and under the weather. Yes, MS3 year is the first day of the rest of our lives.
The final two years of medical school are much less school and much more training. We will be set loose on the wards. Standardized patients will be replaced by human beings. All of the pneumonics, “triads” of symptoms and “pathognomonic hallmarks” will be brought to life in a rude awakening that the maladies that we blindly memorized were for the sole purpose of reducing suffering. What gets lost along the way as we struggle to pile on more and more information is that all of these disorders have a person attached to them. A thinking, feeling person that reminds us of our grandmother, our neighbor, our mothers. We begin to develop something that can never be taught in a textbook, the ability to comfort. One of my favorite quotes regarding our profession is the following:
To cure sometimes.
To relieve often.
To comfort always.
Medicine is an imperfect science. Despite our many advancements, more often than not we are unable to cure. And as frustrating as that is, our job turns to doing the best we can. The next two years will be about learning how to navigate the options-because there will be many and with no clear indication. We will learn how to make the best choices for our patient. The real reason you go to a doctor is because you need someone to guide you. The choices we make regarding our health are individual. There is no textbook patient and no textbook treatment. The clinical years are about synthesizing textbook information with the reality of medical practice. We have so much left to learn and I can’t wait for this next phase in our education!
The only thing left between me and my training years are 5 exams and my boards. Not too bad considering everything we’ve already gone through to date.