One thing that has become increasingly evident, in my time in medical school, is that I cannot survive this career if I continue to view myself as a self-sufficient island. When I started university, I came from a position of very rarely needing help, as I’m sure many medical students do. We’re often top of our class, used to puzzling out our problems by ourselves, and usually giving advice and help to others. While this success is useful for our confidence, and, of course, our success, it also feeds another, less positive part of our being, our ego. And as my mother always says, ‘Pride comes before a fall’.
This was lesson I learned he hard way when I started university. From almost my first day at Cambridge, my journey good only be described as one thing; a struggle. Even now, in my final year, six of six, this is the still the most apt way to describe my time here. However, this is not unique. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a medical student who will describe their time at university as ‘easy’. Unfortunately, you may need to press quite hard for this information; despite medical students often struggling with the stress and pressure of their degree, we can often still remain tight lipped about how hard we find things.
However, keeping silent about our struggles can be dangerous, for us and for out patients. I’ve discussed a little before about why it’s so important, for our mental health and well being, to be open when we find things difficult. But it’s almost more important to be honest about when we feel unsure about things relating to our patients. While admitting that you aren’t’ sure about a patient’s diagnosis, or management, may hurt your ego, attempting to save your pride can be fatal. This is why humility, and the ability to ask for help, are some the most important characteristics a doctor can have.
Even now, I still have to fight the desire to smile and nod numbly, when a doctor mentions a disease or drug I’ve never heard of. But getting used to saying ‘Actually, I don’t know’ is good for me, and great for my patients.
Let me know if this is something you’ve struggled with, or if you have any tips you have for getting over it.
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