The Light at the End of the Tunnel
Medical training is long, and at times very dark – for the end is seemingly forever away. But, my time as a student of formal medical education, is slowly coming toward it’s enviable end. Residency is almost over! I’ve nearly made it to the light and out the other end.
Like many students, I dreamed of the day I’d be a doctor – all on my own. I did the right things – Chemistry major in undergrad with a Rural health program to help line up my future. Research experience and a decent score on the MCAT (on the second try) helped make sure I got into the medical school. During medical school, I struggled at times in the first semester, but still ended up graduating with a few “honors” by the end. I picked a specialty and went through residency interview after interview – for anesthesia, transitional years, preliminary years. Finally, Match day came – YES! – I’d set my path! Now it’s four years later, residency is winding down, and that light at the end of tunnel is brighter than any I’ve ever seen.
Looking back, undergraduate days and pre-med worries seem so long ago. I remember when residents would come and speak to our pre-med program. Their knowledge was so impressive, I often wondered if I would ever be able to stand in front of a crowd and talk so easily about complex medical care. Then as a medical student, I studied tirelessly to have that knowledge, yet it truly took the long hours residency to be able to understand that level of clinical confidence. Now about finished, I look upwards toward attendings with years of practice under their belts, wondering again if I will be so calm some day… when a patient in front of them is falling apart.
It’s a funny thing though, while the individual days are long, the years now seem short. The hour after hour of studying, completing rotations, learning key points over and over…. now are but a blur. When you are going through those long and difficult times, I think it becomes hard to understand what it is all for. The light of the tunnel is so far away. The end, often seemingly no where in sight.
For all those at the various stages of medical training – whether a fresh pre-med or a medical student stuck in the foreverness of a library… or an intern who is buried in another brutal stretch of call – find your own light at the end of the tunnel. Look not for the end of ends – finishing residency – but the next end. Scoring well on the MCAT. Graduating undergrad and getting accepted into medical school. Passing the USMLE Step exam. Matching with your future residency spot. Medical school graduation. Finishing intern year. Advancing through residency.
These are all small tunnels to be passed, all with a light to be chased… and celebrated when reached. Find these milestones and set your sights on them, knocking them off one by one. Before you realize, the years will have gone by, and you’ll be at the end.
As I reach my own light, I only share that small piece of advice – don’t lose track of the ultimate goal, but focus on the next major task first. Before you realize, the years will have gone by, and you’ll be at your own finish line!
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