Medical Odyssey

adventures, monsters, battles, and maybe a moral here and there

Bright Eye’d and Bushy Tailed: Listening to the Underclassmen

Day #64: What does listening to those who have yet to experience what you have already experienced make you feel?

More and more these days I have found that my view of healthcare and what it means to be a doctor have been evolving from what I imagined it would be. But is my perception changing because of genuine change or from listening to those with more wisdom than me? I can’t count how many times I’ve been talking about something with an upperclassman only to have them chuckle at one of my statements and say something to the effect of “oh that’ll soon change, you’ll see.” Now, I know that I have a great deal left to learn in terms of what it means to be a physician, not from an academic point of view, but from a social and professional perspective. But is my perception changing because I’m genuinely experiencing something that is changing my outlook or is just hearing an upperclassman’s opinion plant a seed in my head that elicits the change?

In some cases, listening to upperclassman has its advantages. But I’m discovering a growing trend that it’s only useful in objective circumstances. For example, getting the inside scoop of what topics are high yield on exams, what information was stressed or tested previously, where to go for the best [insert thing]. But when it comes to subjective cases like how “hard” or “interesting” something is, what they think about an instructor, or what they deem as most important, is typically not how I experienced it. Now I know you might be thinking “well ya, everyone experiences things in a unique way.” Although that is undoubtedly true, my point is that it seems like upperclassmen opinions seem to be swaying us idealistic and inexperienced underclassmen and what I’m worried is that these upperclassmen opinions build us up to becoming the stereotypical doctor.

As new generations enter and pass through medical school (or ANY establishment) the ideals and beliefs should be evolving with them and not being passed down.

I’m not naive, though, I know that we don’t have the wisdom on many things medical/ healthcare related so we can be very naive to how the world really is. And this brings up something that happened last night. It’s saturday night and I’m spending a wonderful evening with my girlfriend, eating dinner on a patio of a restaurant in beautiful (and uncommonly warm) October weather. We’re about done with dinner when I overhear two guys sitting behind us discussing their applications to medical school and sharing “facts” they’ve heard about schools, things to help their admission process, and how to properly write a secondary. The first thing that came to mind was my own experience in the application process and the fond nostalgia of those stressful yet exciting times. However, as the guys kept talking and sharing stories (and as I kept periodically¬†eavesdropping) I realized that these guys had a lot to learn. And just then, at that exact moment when I said to my girlfriend, “wow those guys have a lot to learn,” I immediately thought “holy crap, I’m turning into one of those guys.” I’m slowly becoming wise and getting a better grasp on things that they have no personal experience with. And although many of the “advice” they were sharing was, in deed, factually incorrect or misrepresented, other things seemed more subjective, and I still found myself shaking my head and smiling as I thought “well I can’t wait to see your face when you see that’s not how things really are.”

As I reflect on that, it really does interest me how much of what we become as doctors and healthcare workers is influenced by those older or more experienced than us. Is it possible that passed down knowledge is what’s keeping our evolution and progression behind? My answer is that I truly don’t know. However, what I do know is that you must always forego judgement until you have personally experienced something and reflected on it personally. It’s vital to bring in new, fresh perspectives into institutions and belief systems, but when you give into the shared opinion, you just might be doing a disservice to yourself, your profession, and those who will one day depend on you.

Stay bright eye’d and bushy tailed, but don’t make a fool of yourself. There’s always an upperclassman waiting to put you in your place.


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