Doctors can be a source of change when it comes to how they view the field of medicine.
Two years have gone by and I’ve soaked up a lot of knowledge as a medical student. So much knowledge that sometimes it’s tough to even sort it all out. Every day I study because one day I need to regurgitate the information for a board exam. That board exam will eventually determine the career I choose. I’ll have another board exam next year, and then another a couple of years after that. Each day I study, hoping I can achieve and outcompete.
I chose the field of medicine to become a healer – to be able to look my patient in the eye with the understanding that I am doing my best to make them a healthier person. I even took an oath saying that I would. Or did I really just take the oath for the prestigious white coat? Actually, am I really even studying with the intention that one day I will be treating patients who have the same diseases I am reading about?
Medicine is a field known for its breakthroughs and legacies. It is known for the type-A personalities and the constant competitiveness. It’s also known for that satisfaction of reaching an achievement or correctly diagnosing a patient. But with all that it’s known for, what gets lost in the mix is that it should be known for the excellence of care, the empathy felt towards patients, and the constant hours and endless dedication given to our patients. I’m sure that’s what many outsiders see the medical field as, but on the inside, a different picture seems to be painted.
Sure, I know what I am learning and slowly practicing helps patients, and I know that patients are grateful for it. But when I am learning and practicing, I almost feel selfish. It almost feels like I am solely doing it for personal benefit. I know I need to study to eventually do well on those board exams to place at a better residency. I know I need to make the correct diagnose for when I get “pimped” by my superiors. I constantly study and learn, but what gets lost in the mix is the idea that I am doing this for the patients I see.
Lately, I’ve been waking up and meditating with the intention to remind myself that I am in this field not for myself but for the patients. I’ve been cultivating the mindset of being in the present moment, treating one patient at a time instead of being anxious about the next question the attending doctor will ask me or about all the things I need to look up. I want to walk into the hospital every morning knowing that as much as I will be working for myself and my achievements, I will be giving my all to the patients in need.
I truly believe I am not the only medical student who feels this way about the field of medicine. Nothing will ever change the qualities of the field. The achievements, competitiveness, long-hours, “pimping,” and self-righteousness will always persist. Those things are actually what makes medicine progress. But it’s not about what can change…it’s about who can change. Providers have the ability to shift their mindset from one that is less about themselves to one that is focused on the patient. Being mindful going into the workday is one way to make this change.
I’m only a 3rd-year student. I haven’t seen all of medicine yet, but for the first three years of this never-ending journey, I have felt the effects of it. Maybe once I have more experience and finish residency, I can start to solely focus on the patients. It’s the type of doctor I want to become. But for now, all I can be is mindful – instead of feeling the prestige when I don the white coat, I can feel the honor that comes with being able to save lives.