Days where you just don’t want to do it anymore

Earlier in on this rotation I was told, “You’re only at the end of the third year, you’re just starting your medical career, you shouldn’t be burnt out yet–I’m at the end of my R2! If anything I should be burnt out! But you’re just a third year!”

I’ve scrubbed into 4 hysterectomies yesterday and the day before taking about 3-4 hours each, where I sat at the foot of the bed on a stool with my legs straddling the OR table widely, leaning forward and holding up a uterus. At the end of the first day I could feel my low back definitely starting to hurt; by the end of yesterday, working with the same surgeon, she told me she wouldn’t be surprised if I wasn’t able to walk the next day. (Much to her credit she called in the OR manager to show proof of how un-ergonomic the setup is, saying that she has complained about this particular bed for months to no avail while all the other ORs are equipped with removable bed parts, and she laid down some truth as she said that if it had been a nurse doing that job for 16 hours we all would have heard the WCB complaint by now, and just because it’s a medical student’s back that’s taking the hit doesn’t mean it’s not important.)

I don’t know what it is about this service that is really, really making me hate medicine and regret my career choice. For sure it had a lot to do with the terrible critical feedback I received at the end of my first week being told I was doing a bad job as a medical student, that I was amotivated, far behind my peers in my skill level, and that I didn’t take initiative. To be told all this at the end of third year and having gotten through much more difficult rotations without ever hearing that I’m amotivated or stupid compared to my peers, I think it must mean I’m either unaware of how certain behaviours of mine are reflecting, or that the personalities in this service are really, really not jiving with mine.

For goodness sake, I got through 6 weeks of colorectal surgery, hemorrhoids, anal sphincters, and massive poop explosions–all without a single complaint of me being uninterested or unmotivated. Somehow because I looked tired and didn’t know what to do at all times on my second call shift of OB, I somehow get pegged as lacking initiative. Sorry that I require sleep like most humans do around 2am. Sorry that I look clueless when it’s my first week on a new rotation. Sorry that I was gowned and gloved for at least 4 deliveries that shift, ready to go, when the resident and staff would waltz into the room and do the delivery. And sorry that I feel a little intimidated asking a staff physician that I get priority to do a delivery over a resident when I’m sitting here not knowing what I’m doing–and yet somehow expected to have done my first delivery in the first week.

In general surgery, I got a lot of heck from nurses about scrubbing into the OR with a hijab/long sleeves, or generally not knowing what to do aka being a med student. In O&G, it seems to be the residents who give me the general vibe of being vultures waiting for the med student to do something stupid so they can jump on it. And believe me, I’m aware of how much fodder we give them… or at least, I know I certainly do. I make stupid mistakes that could be avoided if I just ask questions. But I have come to avoid asking questions to busy residents because I have also felt stupid asking them for an apparently obvious answer. It becomes kind of a lose-lose scenario.

So I guess here’s one more thing they can claw at me for. I called in sick for the first time in clerkship, given my sore back. Yes, I called in sick on a rotation where I’m already on their radar for being “amotivated and burnt out.” I know for a fact that the residents have discussed my “poor performance” with one another. And all I really have to say for myself is that I know I’m no stupider than the rest of my classmates when it comes to obsgyn, that I would rather succumb to sleep for a few hours than unsafely go around and try to deliver care to patients, that I know I’m not cut out for any surgical specialty nor do I have any interest in pursuing it, but that I am doing the best I can to take from this rotation and all rotations what is important for me to know as a medical professional. Initially when that resident gave me a list of criticism, I really took it to heart and did for a moment doubt how I rank compared to my peers, and whether I could make it as a physician (even if I pursued the rather non-medical field of psychiatry). Mostly I feared how I’d presented myself as unmotivated, when I never imagined myself giving that vibe. And now, here I am more or less brushing off that harsh feedback, not wanting to suck up to residents any more than I have been already, not caring enough about my evaluation to avoid calling in sick when it could have been avoided, and counting down the days left until psych starts (exactly three weeks and 2 days).

So, sure, if that means I’m burnt out, then I guess I’m burnt out.


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