Sunday, June 6, 2010


Having been around for a few years and lived through a great number of changes and shifts in my world, I know that there are periods in your life where you feel things move and alter, and you come out the other end a slightly different version of yourself.

I feel like I'm going through one of those now. The next stage in my life is on its way.

I'm not entirely sure why. We apply for internship in a few days, and so I know that I'll be back in the working world very soon. This could be it. I'm starting to get back into the working-person mentality.

I'm so very glad that I have had a previous career. Starting out into the time of your life where you begin your first career job is challenging. A lot changes about the way you see the world and see yourself, and it can be a painful process, even though you may not admit it to anybody else.

Students are both coddled and dismissed as a general rule. You are sheltered from most of the responsibility. As much as you might think that you are acting as a doctor/nurse/radiographer/whatever, you are still directly supervised by somebody who has to clean up your mess or check up on you all of the time. Although some might think that we are going to be in a similar situation as interns, being supervised by registrars, the interns still have assigned work, responsibility and their own job role.

When things get really shitty, you are just the student and can be pushed out of the way for all of the actual doctors to take care of things. As the intern, you are one of the doctors - albeit a junior one.

I also think that I have matured a lot in the past four years. I'm a lot tougher, and things that I would have taken personally and would have made me cry now just make me shrug or not even blink. Social slights from friends (unintended or not) just slide off me like water off a duck's back. Sometimes I wonder why I'm not more included in things, but then I wonder whether I would really want to be. I'm happy being an introverted homebody.

Thankfully I seem to have retained some capacity for empathy and joy with patients. I get all misty-eyed when I see the new dads weeping at the sight of their newborn resting on their wife's chest, and I feel so proud of them sitting there and supporting their wives, being themselves proud of how hard she is working and what she is going through. The women amaze me.

The same thing goes for patients elsewhere. It is just easier to relate positive empathy, as you feel more distanced towards people who are going through rough times. I have been in the lift on multiple occasions with families who have just lost a loved one. Their weeping would break your heart, if you let it.

It isn't my burden to bear, and I couldn't do my job if I let it get to me, but I can be kind and empathetic and give them as much time, talking (or not-talking) and tissues as they need.

Years ago when I was a student in my first career, I heard the dark jokes of the staff about patients and was mortified. I nearly left health at that point because I didn't want to become cold like that. The impression I had was that they were heartless. Now I know that it is just a protective mechanism (and several of them were just pricks anyway), and having that impact on me so early in the piece, I like to think that I'm more conscious of any tendency to become that black.

If you told my 22-year-old self that at 32 she would be nearly finished medicine and have retained empathy and not become a hard shell of a person, she would be both disbelieving, happy and relieved at the same time.

So, what is shifting right now? I'm not sure, I can just feel a change coming. I think I've become more honest with myself about certain social patterns, and know that I'm not as close to some people as I thought I was. This is nobody's fault, it is just the way things are.

I think things will change a lot when we all start work next year. It will be one hell of a test, and some friendships won't make it and will die natural deaths, and new ones will spring up in their place. This is the way that life works. We change, we grow and we move on.

To be honest, I can't wait to be back to work. Being a student has been a challenge, but on my worst day I never felt as awful as I did leaving work on my better days as a radiographer. However, as much as I disliked my job, there is something that I love about working - actually working, not student "working". I like responsibility, I love feeling part of a team, and I like being a part of the big machine rather than an onlooker. I miss genuinely being able to help.

I could also be stressed, but my husband has said that he is beyond proud of me finishing medical school, and is happy to move to wherever I go. There are some rural places where he is more likely to get a job than others, so I'll put them up the list of preferences.

It could also be PMS. But not really.

This has been a long post, so if you have gotten this far, thanks for reading. It felt good to get all of that off my chest.


*C said...

Thank-you for that small insight into your transition. These are exciting times.

I'm still enjoying the novelty of student life, but I can see it losing its shine in the years ahead. But time passes quickly. And it's a rare opportunity to see the machinery of change in action and appreciate its direction. A chance to brace yourself, prepare and take stock.

Do you wonder how this might change this in your relationship? I think you've probably been together long enough to go through these changes before - but it's a wonder I have. I remember how much stress and adjustment my first foray into the workforce placed on my relationship - I wonder if that kind of difficult change is inevitable. Or are we older and wiser the second time around?

The Girl said...

I'm not worried about my relationship. We have been together through a lot more stressful and tumultuous times than starting a different career, and we are good at working at. :)

I would like to think that the second time around we know more of what to expect, and are better at keeping work and home a little more separate. I guess it probably depends on what your first career was, too.

Sara said...

I found myself as an intern a lot more supervised than I thought and not expected to do much other than busywork (IVs, going to radiology to get a report, etc). Was overworked and didn't learn a lot, but not nearly as much decision responsibility as I thought.

And it's nice to have a salary, no matter how ridiculous.