Progress Notes

Take a deep breath

Chaya Murali
Chaya Murali

by Chaya Murali, MS4

I was talking to an MS2 friend of mine the other day. He, like his classmates, is a fresh-faced, brand-new clinical rotation student, and he’s starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by it all.

“Being on clinics is hard,” he said. His shelf exam was looming ahead, he was having trouble adjusting to the early wake-up times of life on rotations, and he was starting to feel the weight of being a physician in training.

I told him I understood. In fact, I knew exactly how he felt. Right now, I’m currently living the fourth-year dream of low-stress rotations (or no rotations at all) and plenty of time with friends and family. But in May, I’ll add two little letters to the end of my name, and a little over a month later, I’ll be an intern, with actual power and actual responsibility and actual patients’ lives in my hands.

I don’t think any of this really sunk in until this week. I’d had a pretty good idea of what my Rank Order List would look like for over a month, and in fact I had certified the list long before the due date. Yet I felt inordinately stressed this whole week, an anxiety manifested by unexplainable insomnia, early-morning awakenings, and general emotional unease. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t connect all these things until just now. Maybe, beneath my ready-to-graduate-and-finally-make-money-and-be-a-real-adult bravado, I harbor more fear than I’m willing to admit.

And that’s saying something, because throughout this whole process, I’ve told anyone who’s asked that I’m terrified. I’m terrified about being constantly tired, and constantly busy. I’m terrified about being a Real Adult, without the financial support of my parents, without the comfort that comes from knowing that as long as I’m still a student, in some ways I’m still a child. I’m terrified about being single right now. I’m terrified at the prospect of possibly leaving the only city I’ve known and loved as a young adult. I’m terrified at the prospect of saying goodbye to friends and family. I’m terrified about calling myself someone’s physician, about doing spinal taps and inserting umbilical artery catheters and prescribing medicine and holding little lives in my not-very-big hands.

So, to recap: I’m scared, and so is my MS2 friend. What we’re doing, what we have done, and what we will do—all those things are heavy with the weight of responsibility, and carrying that weight isn’t easy.

Towards the end of our conversation, I left my MS2 friend with a few words of Wise Fourth-Year Student advice for his shelf exam. “Take a deep breath and try your best,” I told him. Because exams aren’t enjoyable, and failing exams even less so, but from here on out, it’s time to start thinking about the challenges we face as opportunities to test our knowledge and skills.  The jobs we will do won’t be easy, but the tests we take will make sure we’re prepared for everything we’ll face. The future will be full of challenges, but all we can do is take a deep breath, and try our best. And that’s just what I intend to do.

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