As my medical school education comes to a close, I find myself reflecting back on the last four years of my life and the things that I’ve learned. I’ve learned a lot about medicine – how to diagnose and treat all kinds of diseases. I’ve memorized countless pharmaceuticals, both generic and brand name, and their most common side effects. I can recite CHADSvasc scores and TIMI risk calculations, which probably doesn’t mean much to you reading this. But I have learned a lot of things that I didn’t expect to. I’ve learned a number of lessons about life that I think I can pass on to everyone, even those who may never set foot in a hospital.
- You can’t know everything. This is one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned as a medical student. I went into medicine because I have a thirst for knowledge. The more that I’ve learned, the less that I feel like I know. But at some point you have to put the books down and say, Hey, I can’t know it all. And that’s okay. Just because you’re a doctor doesn’t mean you’re an expert at every aspect of medicine. It means you’ve worked your butt off and you know a whole heck of a lot because of it, but at the end of the day, you’re still merely human.
- Know your limitations. It’s hard for me to admit when I don’t know something, but the best physicians I’ve worked with are the ones who readily admit when they don’t know the answer. Admitting you don’t know an answer is much better than guessing or making something up, especially when you’re dealing with people’s lives.
- You can’t do it all. I’ve always thought of myself as superwoman (humble, I know). But the last four years have taught me that you really can’t do it all. I pride myself on being a wife, mother, writer, and now, doctor. But it’s a lot to juggle, and I can only be in one place at once. As much as I want to say that I can do it all, the reality is that every day I have to make tough choices about how I will spend my time. That means choosing to work instead of stay home with my daughter or choosing to study instead of spend time with my husband. Something always has to give.
- A little chaos is okay. This is a lesson I try to remind myself of constantly. I am a very neat and organized person, and having a toddler is a constant internal struggle for me. My daughter enjoys making piles of things and making all kinds of messes around the house, and it takes a great amount of strength to watch her mess things up. But at the end of the day, my daughter is having fun, and everything that gets messed up can be put back. Or not. Somebody will clean it up.
- You’re stronger than you think you are. I’ve always believed that God never gives us more than we can handle. But I also believe he gives us exactly as much as we can handle and never any less. So, so many times during the last four years I’ve felt like quitting and giving up, but somehow I’ve pulled through. I think we are all capable of much more than we give ourselves credit for. Then again, we’ll see if I survive these next three years…
- Be thankful – it could be worse. My patients are always reminding me that my life could be so much worse than it is. I’ve seen children lose parents, parents lose their children, and spouses torn apart by death. So many days I run home to my family and thank God that I’m so lucky. No matter how bad things get, I try to remember that it could always be worse.
- Every day is a blessing. Very similar to Number 6, but a lesson just the same. We never know what tomorrow brings. Today could very well be your last. So carpe the heck out of this diem and remember that every day is a blessing.
- You can learn something from everyone. Every person has a story, and every person is on this earth for a reason. If you are able to spend time with them, talk to them, and figure out what that reason is, then you can learn something from everyone.
- Learn from your mistakes. Every failure is an opportunity for growth. If you make a mistake, learn from it. Move on with your life, and don’t make the same mistake again.
- All bleeding stops eventually. A common saying in medicine that basically means this too shall pass. No matter how bad things get, they won’t be bad forever. Some days you just have to get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other. Then repeat. Again and again until things get better.
- And last, but not least: Take care of yourself first. Definitely my motto, aka I am My Own First Patient. But this applies for everyone. You can’t help others if you are a mess, so always take time for yourself when you need it – a little bit every day if you can. Those around you will thank you for it.
I am old enough that I was working in the Houston Methodist Hospital Cardiac critical care unit and Baylor College of Medicine when the first TIMI trial was being conducted! 1986!