The end of an age

As of last week Friday, third year is officially over.

We completed our last junior clinical rotation last week and even though some of us had assignments to hand in on Monday (or Tuesday, or today, depending on their outlook on deadlines) we were no longer third years. Nor are we fourth years. Not yet in any case. We are in limbo, such as it were.

Looking back, my first three years in medical school passed in the blink of an eye. Hindsight is like that. But while I was slaving away in preclinical years, I remember thinking clinical rotations couldn’t come fast enough. Oh how they did. I went from studying anatomy/physiology/pathology in a vaccuum to having to apply those principles on my feet, in the ward, out of the recesses of my brain where they’d been kicked post-exam 1-2 years ago in front of the expectant consultant whose favourite line will always be “Didn’t you guys do this just this other day? I haven’t studied that in 20 years.”

I went from swotting with no idea how to connect the ideas to learning. Legit learning, where you can apply and critique and not just regurgitate. Preclin was really just an introduction to a foreign language. Clinicals are moving to the country and diving head first into the culture.

And this culture is being demystified more and more every day. I have to say that the closer I get to actually being a doctor, the more I realize how much the same we all are. Well, except for the weird perfect students.

When I just started medical school, 5th years were akin to consultants (aka gods), 4th years some kind of demigod (aka residents) and 3rd years represented the height of my aspirations at the time. Having gone through third year with the scars to prove it, and now standing on the other side of the abyss as it were, everyone has a much more human appearance. Consultants make dirty jokes, all the time. They’re not always right. 5th years don’t know everything. 4th years are little more than overly ambitious 3rd years. And as for 3rd years? Ha. We were the bottom of the clinical food chain.

The higher I climb in this medical field (it’s a sheer cliff face, there’s no safety rope and I’m using my bare hands) the more I understand and the less I trust absolutely. Old facts and unlearned, relearned, ridiculed and tossed out the window only to be recycled the next day. One truth remains: I’m not a junior any more.

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