This article was originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of the Tarrant County Physician. You can read find the full magazine here.
As I write this, we are amidst graduation season for kindergarten, high school, college, and medical school; it is a time to celebrate the culmination of one of many of life’s journeys. By the time you read this, it will be another magical time of year that all medical professionals know . . . July 1. The time of year when medical students are starting their journey into medical school, or starting their clerkships and entering the clinical learning environment. It is also the time when newly minted doctors put on their crisp, long white coats and try out what it sounds like to say, “Hi, I’m Doctor So-and-so.” It is the time of year when the cycle of medical education continues to turn, and for those of us in practice, it is a time to reflect on our own journey in medicine. Below are some words of wisdom I have for the next generation of physicians.
First year medical students
Welcome to the profession! You have started the journey into the best career you can ever have. The path ahead will not be easy, and there will be many highs and lows. Always keep in mind the reason you chose medicine and enjoy the ride.
You finally made it . . . you are out of the classroom and getting to do what you wanted to do when you started medical school – learn how to take care of patients. The hours will be long, and your brain will hurt from all the new knowledge, but you are finally starting the work that you signed up for. The best piece of advice I have is the same thing I was told at the beginning of my clerkship year: “You are paying for the privilege to be here . . . get your money’s worth.” There will be no other time in your career where the whole world of medicine is open to you.
Decisions you make are no longer about a, b, c, or d choices; there is now a human life attached to your decisions. There is a whole lot of grey in medicine and not every patient “reads the book.” Keep an open mind and learn as much as you can.
You are now a doctor . . . listen to the nurses. They can teach you many things and help you in times when you do not know what you are doing, or they can make your life a living hell.
You, too, were a medical student once and were taught by a resident who took you under their wing – or were dismissed by a resident who forgot where they came from. What type of resident do you want your medical student to see you as?
You now have the privilege to sign orders, write prescriptions, and perform procedures. All of this has an impact on a human life. Never forget that.
The doctor who is not willing to say “I don’t know” or “I need help” is the most dangerous doctor out there. When another doctor asks for help, realize that they have reached the end of their knowledge base and are asking for your expertise.
It is called the practice of medicine, not perfection. You may have completed medical school, residency, and possibly even fellowship, but there is always something more to learn. When you do this, it is no longer just for your own education or to pass the test, but so you can provide the best care for your patients. They are the reason we do what we do.