This is real life

Yesterday we had our first anatomy dissections. It was incredible for a number of reasons, the main one being that our team works so well together. We’re all supportive, we’re all looking out to make sure everyone’s feeling okay, isn’t dizzy or sick, wants to do a cut, doesn’t want to do a cut, holding back skin for one another, the whole shebang. I’m extremely happy to be in a group that can be so chill and also serious.

As we dug deeper into our cadaver, I guess he became more and more human to me. Comparing with other groups, we saw that our guy was seriously ripped, with defined pecs and abs, and it kind of hit all of us that this was probably a young guy, regular gym-goer, maybe only a few years older than us. There aren’t any physical indications of how or why he died (yet) and it all kind of leaves me in a stupor… like maybe it was something so small and insignificant that killed him, or maybe something so unanticipated like a heart attack that crept up on him. It’s an eery feeling knowing that can happen to any of us, at any time.

Today in Gilberts we also had a real patient because our standardised patient’s car wouldn’t start (-43 in today, for the record). I’m so glad my preceptor is so eager to teach, and that really shows through in her enthusiasm for us to see a cardiac patient when we’re a week into the block with absolutely no conception of what comprises a cardiac physical exam. We warned her that we wouldn’t know anything, yet her patience and dedication to show us all the steps even when it’s not her job just speaks to me about how some of our instructors are truly phenomenal and truly want us to learn by doing.

That’s what I’ve discovered about myself in the past few weeks: I learn by doing.

I can’t find meaning in lab values and ordering tests that I don’t understand, I can’t be passionate about things on paper and in textbooks, I just can’t do that kind of medicine. For me this has been manifesting itself in serious doubts about my choice in profession. I couldn’t find that passion for learning that all my peers seem to have (for everything…) and the way I was struggling to get through class every day no matter what the subject made me think I’d only gone into medicine because I’d gotten in. Why else would someone who got into medical school the first time applying, after making an abrupt decision in fourth year undergrad, after arguing with her parents for years about not wanting to go into medicine, take things as unseriously as me? Everything from all our content classes, our patient care classes, our professionalism classes, even some of our patient interactions?

I’m starting to think it’s really a problem in the way content is taught, more than it is a problem with me. If a message is delivered to me in some theoretical thought bubble containing numbers and names of scientists from 50 years ago, I guess it makes sense that it wouldn’t really resonate in me. Definitely not make me passionate and excited to learn. But when you give me a cardiac patient and tell me to do a cardiac exam on him despite never being taught how, and just push me into the water and let me discover it for myself, I’ll probably do hella well. I’ll get excited when I actually palpate the apex of his heart and hear his murmur. I’ll want to go home and research all the bone structures and muscles when you dig your finger into the pectorial of my cadaver to show me where they put breast implants, because that’s interesting and that’s real life. That’s a real man with a real arrhythmia who needs real treatment, and I can see myself at the foot of his hospital bed being his only hope for getting that treatment and a real diagnosis. That’s when I stop being a face in a crowded lecture hall who’s just one more exam-taker and actually become a future physician who people will rely on. That’s real life.

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One thought on “This is real life

  1. Great post! I wanted to know more about your experiences when you had to analyse cadavers. You’re doing great. The meaning of life is to give life meaning… think of that for your profession as well. Beyond the textbooks, you’ll find a meaning in it all and gain strong passion in time.

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