The obvious difference between myself and the young adults I learn with is that I have already spent years on ‘the other side’. I’ve experienced the power and knowledge differential that a mother expects when she brings her child to a physician. I’ve needed doctors. I’ve questioned doctors. I’ve been saved by doctors and I’ve been rescued by doctors. (Those last two are different). In addition, I’ve questioned ‘how much more’ a doctor really knows. After all, what can’t be found on the internet if you just know where to look?
I started a new flashcard program this semester and in the last 2 weeks I have created 1100 of them. I have renewed faith regarding the question of ‘how much’ my doctor knows 🙂 But here’s the thing about the knowledge differential that we have all experienced…. It’s not the knowledge (yes, the internet has it all). It’s the language. I spend hours each week memorizing new words. Sometimes I sit in class and marvel that I can understand what the lecturer is saying at all. The sentences have this familiar structure, but all the important words have been substituted out with some kind of code. The creation of a language barrier is a risky thing. Sometimes I look around at my young classmates who are bright and talented and good-hearted and I wonder how they will translate between the language they will speak in their heads (Medicine) and the language their patients will speak (English). I wonder which ones will remember that it matters for the people they touch? I wonder if they will understand how much it matters?
I think back to all the years I have spent as the mother of a patient, the wife of a patient, the daughter of a patient, and a patient myself. This is my native language, and the one thing I knew about medicine before I ever believed I could be a part of it was this….the really good doctors always spoke my language.