Anxiety and anticipation, a susurrus of excitement. It’s my first real day of clinicals and I am encompassing all sorts of contradictions. I feel fearful and brave, exalted and humbled, energetic and lazy. The only thing I feel absolutely is sleepy. My first day as a real person (and not just a student) and I have to get up at 6AM? Ridiculous. However, this is what it’s all been for. Stage I of my medical education is done (“Ding Dong Step I is dead” I sing in my head cheerfully), and I now continue on to the fun stuff – being in a hospital. Getting to wear my white coat, having an ID, parking in the employee parking spaces, $25/week for meals provided, and even having a pager – essentially. I’ve got the world on a string and am gently but precariously perched on a rainbow.
I say precariously because it is easy to get knocked off that precipice of heady emotion by the simple fact of how much there is left to learn. Now that I finished Step I, I’m basically a doctor, right? Wrong. Within the first few minutes, it was quickly and pointedly brought home to me how much of a naïve babe-in-the-woods I am, and how much more work there is to do. Luckily, all the staff members I worked with were very friendly and receptive to questions.
The single biggest concern I have is that I really don’t want to look like an idiot. These are the people judging you, appraising you, and, most importantly, grading you. They are the ones from whom you may want to ask for letters of recommendation. They are also the people you will be working with for the next 6-12 weeks, and no one wants to start off with a bad impression.
This is especially true for me, since I resemble a confused bear who has been forced to wear clothing. You don’t want to look like that. You want to look suave, confident – like the doctor that you already believe yourself to be. Essentially, a blend of Gregory House and James Bond, with a dash of Ryan Gosling. You may even be tempted to try a British accent. (Don’t do it. It’s not worth it. Trust me.)
But I digress. There are two key things that I figured out soon enough: A) Smile a lot. Frowning makes you look stupid. Smiling can also make you look stupid, so keep it contextual. Basically, be friendly. B) Show interest. If you don’t know something and are curious, ask about it. You may get an answer. You may not. You may be told a lot more than you can remember or end up having to research a lot more than you would ever want. Either way, you’re participating and you can learn some surprising and really cool stuff. It’s better than coming away with absolutely nothing gained.
Just be friendly, upbeat, and invested. That is more (but not wholly) important than just sheer knowledge. Definitely make sure you know your stuff but, even if you don’t, a positive attitude and a friendly countenance will get you through most interactions. You can always correct a lack of knowledge; it’s more difficult to make up for a lack of personality. Above all, just use common sense. It’s public property, there’s more than enough to go around. At the end of the day, you have to show that you are able to be trusted with people’s lives. Just don’t worry about that now: you’re still a student.
by Prakash Jayanthi, Class of 2014