A New Kind of Hard – 3rd Year

I’m finishing my last week of psychiatry rotation. Like whaa?! I know. I’m a 3rd year. It’s surreal. The challenges of 2nd year and Step 1 is all behind me now, and there’s no turning back.

Ooo, is that my name?! Hehe…umm…do I really know what I’m doing?!

If I could sum up my 3rd year experiences so far in one word, I would say it is “moving.” Definitions (per Google, not in particular order):

  1. Producing strong emotion, especially sadness or sympathy.
  2. Influence or prompt (someone) to do something.
  3. In motion.
  4. Change the place or position of.
  5. Make progress; develop in a particular manner or direction.

Interacting with patients, reinforcing knowledge, and working with a multi-disciplinary team…they all present a new kind of challenge. It’s the kind that drives me to tears not because I got a low score or fear the next set of exams. It drives me to tears because I realize medicine can only go so far. No matter how well the anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds we prescribe work, we can’t erase childhood abuse or violence in the home. Although we have great plans to transfer patients to a board and care facility for further care, we can’t keep them off the streets if they choose to leave or if they cannot afford it.

I realize, too, the necessary humility physicians must possess to show love and care to patients who may insult us, ignore us, and distrust us. Humility is also needed to admit when we’re wrong, to respond to constructive feedback, to ask for help when we don’t know the answers, and to respectfully listen to people who strongly disagree with us.

Lastly, I learn every day about my own personal limitations. How many emotions from the day can I manage without feeling completely drained by 5 p.m.? How do I keep a healthy boundary between empathy for the patient and my own health? What is the best way to organize all the things – the papers, the emails, the assignments, the sign-offs?!

In the end, I’m human. I make mistakes, I feel hurt when I’m threatened or not appreciated, I feel frustrated when the same patient keeps coming back to the hospital for the same reason, I want to go back to sleep when the alarm clock goes off. But knowing I’m human and knowing that my patients are human too helps me to connect with them in moving ways. Knowing the impact that I can make on someone’s life –  knowing that my hard work is making a difference – makes this new kind of hard totally worth it.