For those graduating medical school over the next few weeks – congratulations! You kept your eyes on the prize. To recap, you had many hurdles, some which included:
(1) grueling undergraduate course study just to take the MCAT
(2) Taking/passing two licensing exams which required extensive knowledge of Embryology, Anatomy, Histology, Pharmacology, Pathophysiology, Biochemistry…just to name a few. (More licensing and board certification exams to follow)
(3) During your 3rd and 4th years of medical school you spent more than 4000+ hours in the hospital, clinics, wards, operating rooms – learning every specialty and finding your niche. You probably accrued 200-240 credits in the process!! Pretty big hurdle!
Now you will become physicians – the ones directing health care teams in various settings. Your MD or DO is a terminal degree – the highest that one can attain in the medical field. The learning doesn’t stop when the tassel turns on graduation day. Residency lies ahead. 10,000-20,000 hours of training (at minimum).
Physician begins with P, but so do other important words that you should keep in mind while you continue to perfect your signature followed by MD or DO.
- Patients – The reason you became a physician. You will be caring for many people who will place their trust in you, their hearts in your hands (metaphorically and literally), and looking to you for help and guidance. Be Patient with Patients. I won’t lie, I’m not always patient but I strive to be. In nine years as a physician (6 past residency), I have encountered so many wonderful patients – some have become friends, some I have shared a good cry with, some have sent me baked goods. With patients, you will build bonds and protect their secrets with scrupulous honor.
- Perseverance – Determination to succeed. Be steadfast during this journey through all its ups and downs. Times will get tough. You will be exhausted, but don’t give up – many people who aren’t even born yet will be relying on your medical expertise one day! You have a purpose so don’t forget it!
- Pay-it-forward – Ok more of a phrase. Your preceptors in medical school taught you. Your clinical faculty in residency will do the same. “See one, do one, teach one” is the mantra. Get involved with your medical school as an alum – we take an oath to teach our art to the next generation.
- Perceptive – No matter what you have read in a textbook, sometimes you have to go with your gut instinct. You develop a gut as time goes on. Patients don’t come into the hospital or clinic with their diagnosis stamped on their forehead. Sit down, talk with them, engage them. 90% of the time you can arrive at a diagnosis just by talking to a patient.
- Passionate – You just spent 8 years preparing to become a physician! Let your passion for people and medicine drive you to become a better version of yourself! Let your passion, and not caffeine, drive you!
- Pleasant – Yes, you will feel dejected at times – don’t let it deter you. When you interact with everyone from patients to family members, nursing staff, janitorial staff, cafeteria staff, or anyone who gets into an elevator with you when you are finishing a 24 hour staff and just want to go home and shower. Banter with others. You are doctors of medicine but strive to become doctors of people.
- Practice – We practice medicine. Might sound banal. The more you treat a pneumonia patient, place a central line, run a code during a cardiac arrest, the more you learn and retain. Practice doesn’t make you perfect, it just makes you more prepared.
Congratulations to all of you new physicians! For those who are religious, prayer is the other “P” that has sustained me as a physician. Praying for my patients, their families, or for God to steady my hand.
Physician isn’t just a noun – it’s a verb; a work in progress. Why? Because the learning never ends.
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