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Wednesday Sep 04, 2019

For New Intern, the Future Is Challenging -- and Bright

It was almost 11 p.m. during the first week of my first month of inpatient medicine when I heard "Code blue, seven north" over the intercom. For a split second, I didn't think much about it because I had heard those words over the intercom multiple times as a medical student. What I somehow momentarily forgot was that I was now responsible for actually responding to that message.

[person pushing up elevator button]

I was quickly reminded of this when the pager at my side starting beeping rather loudly, displaying the same message I had just heard along with the relevant room number. My heart started racing, my breathing changed, my stomach felt like a large knot and I had a hard time getting my legs to actually move toward the seventh floor of the hospital. In that moment, I fully realized I was no longer a student, and I set off to see what situation I would encounter on the seventh floor.

Even though I'm only beginning my third month of residency, I've affirmed that I will never have time to get bored in family medicine. I always knew this to be true, but residency has absolutely proven it.

In my first two months, I worked in the emergency department and a nursing home. I took care of people on the floor and in the ICU. And I saw patients in the clinic ranging from a 9-month-old girl to an 87-year-old gentleman.

As I had been told, family medicine allows me to take care of my patients -- no matter their age or medical setting -- and I enjoy it now even more than I thought I would.

I have to be honest; there have already been times where I needed that fifth cup of coffee in the middle of the night to keep going, and I'm sure there will be many more times when a sixth or seventh cup might be required. But no matter how tired I am or how much sleep I miss, I am reminded of why I'm doing this as soon as I enter my next patient's room. And they, along with their families, look at me differently now when I introduce myself as a "doctor." There is an expectation that I am going to help them in whatever situation they may face, although many times no amount of medicine or medical training will fix their true problem.

I've found it more than frustrating to realize just what a small part medicine plays in a person's overall health. Studying and hearing about social determinants of health is one thing, but as I've begun to see how financial resources, transportation, housing, health literacy, etc., all challenge my patients' everyday lives, it has started to take on a whole different meaning.

Another thing I have become well acquainted with is paperwork. As a student, I saw the massive amounts of documentation, dictation, paperwork and other nonclinical activities that my attending physicians, as well as the residents, had to do. However, what I didn't fully realize is that they continued to work on these things long after I had been allowed to leave for the day. I quickly learned that none of the degrees I have earned thus far would help me sort through all the administrative tasks that burden physicians every day we go to work. But because these things are necessary to get our patients the assistance they really need, we need new and improved tools to help us complete these tasks moving forward.

Even with all the things that seem to make medicine less enjoyable for so many of my colleagues, for now, I'm just excited to finally be doing what I set out to do almost a decade ago. I am thankful for this rigorous training process because I know I have only three years to lay the foundation of knowledge that I will continue to build on for the rest of my career as a family physician. I realize every day that there is so much more I need to learn, but I'm excited to continue on this journey of practicing medicine, and I can't wait to see what the future has in store.

Chandler Stisher, M.D., is the student member of the AAFP Board of Directors.

Posted at 01:59PM Sep 04, 2019 by Chandler Stisher, M.D., M.P.H.

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