Third year is the one you hear about. Long hours, little sleep and lots of people asking you questions you don’t know how to answer.
Years one and two are academic. You learn a new language (a classmate told me medical students learn an average of 20,000 new words over the course of their education). You learn a lot of microscopic details about how the body works and how it goes wrong. Then you learn the details about how the medicines you prescribe may fix the problem. You sit for countless hours in lecture halls and study rooms.
Third year is a pivotal year for us. Instead of the classroom, we learn on the wards. Instead of virtual patients and theoretical problems, we have people in front of us who need expert care. It is oh-so-obvious to us that we are not experts yet, but somehow over the course of this year it is expected that we will become competent to handle basic medical scenarios without error. That competency seems a long, long way off. Ready or not, third year starts Monday.
My schedule for July 6 reads “Ophthalmology (eye) Surgery 07:30. Review OR slate cases prior to surg day”. In other words, “Please find out what surgeries are taking place and study in order that you may be able to speak to your preceptor with a basic level of intelligence. We would like him to be willing to teach other students once he is done with you.”
This terrifies me. This whole year terrifies me.
We will rotate through most of the major wards of the hospital over the next 12 months: eyes, skin, psychiatry, family medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, paediatrics, internal medicine, orthopaedics, anaesthesia, surgery (various), and the emergency department. We will be on call. We will be called on.
I have that feeling you get at the start line of a cross country race. You know you’re going to have to push yourself and you know it’s going to hurt, you just don’t know how much. The sound of the starting gun brings its own relief.