I’m not sure which was the more terrifying experience for me this week: finding a scorpion in my living room or starting Intern year in the ICU. We’ll call it a tie.
There is such a huge jump from being a medical student to being a doctor, and until it actually happens you really have no idea how big that jump is. As a medical student everything is theoretical. But as an Intern, when someone asks you what you want to do, they actually want you to do it. And you should probably actually know the answer instead of guess.
Or you could do what I do and just ask the nurse. My favorite part about working in the ICU is that the nurses are all pretty good. They’ve been around longer than I have and so far they have all been very nice.
One very friendly young nurse kept coming up to me and saying, “Dr. Howard, the patient in Bed 8 needs this.” Or, “Dr. Howard, what do you want to give to this patient.” After about the third time I said, “You know it really freaks me out when you call me Dr. Howard. You can just call me Emily.” She had a good laugh, but I was being completely serious.
It’s very strange to be Dr. Howard. It still takes me a second to respond when someone calls me that. I still forget and introduce myself to patients as Emily. And I always fumble to find the words when I’m talking on the phone. “Dr. Howard” sounds like someone who knows what she’s doing, and that is not me.
I do love the ICU, though. And even though it’s a scary place to start as an Intern, in many ways it feels like home. The familiar sounds of beeping ventilators and IV machines. The familiar faces of the nurses and attendings who I met during my student rotation. And lots and lots of sick patients.
So far I haven’t killed anyone. I’ve gotten to do several procedures. I’m slowly learning how to use the hospital’s computer system to write notes and orders. And little by little I feel like I’m becoming a doctor.
14-15 hour days are long and exhausting. Especially night shifts. And it doesn’t help that I’ve already gotten myself sick. I think it’s going to be very hard to take care of myself during residency. I probably need to eat more and drink more water. And eating bacon from the cafeteria every morning should probably not become a habit.
I don’t know how I’m going to make it through this. It can be overwhelming at times when I don’t know what I’m doing and there are lots of sick patients to take care of and they’re all decompensating at the same time. But it feels really good to have survived my first week as a doctor. Now if I can just survive these scorpions…