To the new set of Clinician Wanna-Bes:
You've probably been waiting on this day for years. Some of you from the day you started medical school; most of you for even longer than that, from the moment you made that firm decision to become a doctor.
After years of hard studying, sleepless nights, and sacrifice, you finally have that crisp diploma in your hand, the hood symbolizing your new status pinned on your toga. Now you can choose to slip on that coveted white coat and apply what you've studied by beginning your practice as you've dreamed of doing.
Congratulations. You've made it through the easiest part of your journey. Welcome to the real world - where the worst is still to come.
Reality is that despite all your exposure and experience as a student, being a doctor is nothing like being in medical school. You will never really know what it is like to be a doctor until you have a patient who is entirely in your hands.
All at once, all the things you thought you knew recedes into the background and everything you know you don't know suddenly takes up center stage. Faced with a patient who hangs on your every word and takes everything you say as gospel just because you're finally wearing that white coat, all five years of learning the science of medicine is negated by everything you didn't learn about the practice of it. And when you need the most to deliver, you are appalled by the thought that 80% of the time, you're bluffing your way through it and praying with all your might that what you did, what you thought, what you said was right.
Reality is that we all have to start out this way... because medicine is about practice and experience, and that the mistakes we make with our patients along the way ensures that we'll be able to make a difference in more patients' lives in the future. Be encouraged by the thought that even the consultants we admire the most or are most impressed with started out exactly the same way.
The more patients you handle, the better you get - at learning, at practicing... and yes, even at bluffing. But despite the growth in your confidence and skill, that staggering terror at the weight of responsibility will never completely go away. Which is a good thing because no matter what we are doing or where we are practicing, it will keep us on our toes. It will drive us to keep our edge, to stay updated, to keep on learning.
You will not always be a young doctor. And doctors only get better with time. But you will have moments - many of them - when you will wonder if your heart can endure the seasoning it will take to become a good doctor... or even if that is what you want to become in the long run. There will be many heartbreaks along the way and your heart will sustain many scars before you are through. And reality is the process of becoming never really ends. It's a lifelong process.
But as real as the challenges are, the joys of practice are also there to be mined to the fullest as well. So take heart and know that it is actually in this real world of medical practice that the best is also always still to come.
Good luck and enjoy the journey!
A contribution to Gigi's TBR at hosted at The Last Song Syndrome - A Letter to the New Medical Graduates