Last night I was asked by a patient, “How long have you been a doctor?” My reply: “Three weeks sir.” If that doesn’t instill confidence in a person, I don’t know what will.
But it has been only three weeks. Yet, somehow, it feels like a lot more. Maybe it’s because I’m blogging right after a 14-hour night shift. Maybe it’s because I’m exhausted and tired and hungry. Or maybe it’s because deep down I’m feeling completely overwhelmed.
Being a doctor is hard. The hours are long. I barely get to see my family. My brain hurts. My feet hurt. I could go on and on. But I’m not one to complain (yeah right). But in all seriousness, I feel completely overwhelmed. So far my experience of being a doctor is one in which every single day I feel inadequate. Every day I’m confronted with my own personal flaws and intellectual deficits. I’m constantly asked questions that I don’t know the answer to. And I’m frequently confronted with decisions that could be life-or-death, all of which I feel unprepared to address.
And today was the first time that I really messed up. I can’t describe in too many details the case or what happened. But basically I ordered too high of a dose of a medication for a patient. I didn’t kill the patient or anything, but an attending brought it to my attention. I took full responsibility. I took the blame. And it sucked.
Not because I got yelled at. Not because I was embarrassed. But because I did something that wasn’t the right thing to do for my patient. And it feels awful. And in the grand scheme of things it was a very small mistake that had only minor consequences. But it hurts. It hurts deep down knowing that my best wasn’t good enough. I should have known that it was too high of a dose. I should have known the effect that it would have. And I just didn’t.
It just amazes me that after four years of medical school I can still know so little. I feel like I’m an intelligent person. I;ve always gotten good grades and good test scores. But medicine is such a complicated field. No two cases are exactly the same. And there is an infinite amount of things to know.
It’s very hard not to get discouraged. Logically I know that I’m just starting my training and that this is normal. I see the residents who are one year or two years ahead of me in their training, and I see how much they know. I’m hope that I get there eventually, too.
But right now it seems almost impossible. It seems like I have so far to go and so much more to learn. I feel like I should know more for where I’m at. And I feel like my patients deserve better.
So for now, I have to stomach the fact that I screwed up. I made a mistake. And I have to get over it. I won’t make this mistake again. But there will be others. Lots and lots of other mistakes. But in some ways this motivates me to work harder and study more and continue to learn as much as I can and ask as many questions possible.
I hope I’m not as dumb as I feel. I really hope that it wasn’t a mistake that somebody let me call myself “doctor.” And I hope that tomorrow I can do better.