I recently saw a photograph of all the new interns that have started working at the hospital I am placed at. Some faces I recognise, many I do not. Whilst I am happy for each of them and I hope they have an amazing experience as they embark on the start of their (hopefully) very long careers, it did dawn on me that in exactly a year’s time that will be me. An intern.
Whenever I’ve talked to other people about the looming graduation that will occur at the end of this year, I always described my emotions as an equal mixture of excitement and fear. Excitement that I will finally have a useful qualification, get paid and start a new chapter of my life. Fear that I will actually have responsibilities and be held accountable for my actions. What I failed to tell them is that the fear outweighs the anticipation. What am I afraid of? Namely a lot of ‘firsts,’ new experiences that might rattle my fragile confidence and are undoubtedly deeply rooted in self-doubt and paranoia. But since making a well-publicised vow in my previous post to be more positive, I have been thinking about all my fears and am trying to rationalise and overcome them. I find writing incredibly cathartic, and thought it would be a good way to not only share the inner workings of my mind, but also to help me embrace these ‘firsts.’ And so, without further ado, here they are.
- The first decision. Well, the first decision whilst treating a patient. What if I’m wrong? What if it does more harm than good? But the truth is interns do most of the administrative work in the team, and any decisions that have a significant impact on the patient will be made by more senior staff. This means that hopefully by the time I have the real responsibility of making executive decisions I will be prepared and well-equipped with the wisdom and knowledge to tackle it.
- The first confrontation. I hate conflict, and I certainly will shit my pants the first time I have to face any aggression. But, with experience comes the appropriate strategies and techniques and I know I will learn how to handle such situations with professionalism and finesse.
- The first humiliation. I am undoubtedly going to make mistakes and at some point a senior doctor will get mad and yell at me. I am slowly becoming resigned to this fate, it happens to the best of us and I suppose it’s the fastest way to learn. I just hope I don’t cry (heads up I cry very easily).
- The first death. It’s never easy losing a patient and witnessing death is very different to reading about it. Interns often have the role of confirming death, and it can be a sobering experience. Nonetheless, it is a part of the job and hopefully it’ll get a little bit better with experience.
- The first kill. As depressing as it sounds, medical errors can have fatal consequences and it is not unlikely that at some point my actions will be directly linked to a person’s untimely passing. Whether it be due to an unforeseeable circumstance or a well-intended but misguided decision, it will undoubtedly be harrowing and I am not sure how one should cope with something like that.
Noticed a pattern? There will always be a ‘first’ for everything. And that’s it. You can only do something for the first time once. From that point onwards I am simply adding to my wealth of experience. So no matter how much shame, embarrassment or grief I feel in the moment, I cannot erase these future memories from my mental database because it will simply make the next time as equally painful. If we approach all our undesirable and feared situations with an openness and willingness to grow, it will only lead to improvement. I am not guaranteeing that I will face each of these fearlessly, in fact I promise to be scared. But never forget the quote “courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” I am a scaredy-cat, but hot damn am I going to be a courageous scaredy-cat.