Will I ever be good enough?
I am almost done with my final year of MBBS and just like most people reading this blog, I am suffering from exam season syndrome too with all those sleepless nights, dried-up eyes, lost appetite, etc., etc. But last night, I felt so exhausted with all those fear-filled thoughts haunting me while I tried to sleep and then I asked myself, “what are you so afraid of?” Maybe, not succeeding at mugging up thoroughly, right? But even if I did manage to survive these exams, somehow, I wondered if I would be worthy enough of using that prefix, ‘Dr.’. I don’t think I would be able to feel worthy enough even after countless hours of cramming several thousands of those pages.
And I contemplated it all further and asked myself- even if my tiny little brain fails to store all this humungous information for these exams and I end up failing, I can re-appear after a few months and I will still pass and I will still get to be a doctor. Even if some of us need more time to memorize that same amount of information, someday, all of us, who signed up for this med-school journey would be the “so-called doctors”. Someday, thanks to our years of memorisation, we would be close to being good diagnosticians. But the real question is- “will I ever be a good enough doctor?”
Our system, our professors, everyone simply encourages us to just study, study and study. But is it all what medicine is supposed to be about? Is it all what being a good doctor is all about?
Because I don’t remember anyone teaching me the art of lending solace to someone in pain? Or wait, is that not what being a doctor is about? During our clinical postings, I remember many incidents when we were taking the patient’s history and the family asked, “will he/she be ok?” There was this one patient, a 17-year-old with HIV and organ failure. What could we have possibly said to that mother who asked that question? We just said that we are students and we are just there to take the history, we don’t know anything, and it would be better to ask the resident. I remember this one incident that made me feel even more helpless. We went to the ward one day and a family was crying in pain really loud because they had just lost a loved one. We just stood there in silence because what could we have possibly done? I wonder why “the art of breaking the bad news” is not a part of the curriculum.
It’s pretty embarrassing for me to admit that 2 years back, I had no idea about the LGBTQ+ community. I was clueless about the simplest terms like gender and sexuality. So, fortunately, I came across some workshops and the right time and got rid of my ignorance to some extent. But after that, when I talked o my colleagues about it, unfortunately, they were all equally ignorant. Like some of them literally thought being transgender and homosexual were one and the same. Really? How can we possibly ever be good enough doctors with so much knowledge that we carry in our pretty heads?
And that’s not the end, I will just put out another scenario in front of you just for shedding some more light on our ignorance, as medical students. So, imagine having a patient experience a really debilitating pain in their body and all their test reports are normal. Would you really be able to be as empathetic towards this person as compared to another patient whose test reports clearly show you that there’s something really wrong with their body? Well, I don’t think that’s possible as long as you aren’t well-taught to empathise with psychosomatic pain. How would you make sure that you validate that person’s pain? How would you make their family members realise that this pain is real? Various studies indicate that invalidation of pain in patients suffering from unexplained chronic pain can worsen their treatment outcomes. 
Also, have you ever encountered someone with special needs? You must have seen some movie at least, for sure. So, if you were to meet someone with autism spectrum disorder, do you think you have the required knowledge to make them feel comfortable and establish a rapport with them? Even various international studies involving medical doctors and medical students indicate that there is a critical lack of medical training in ASD, particularly in developing countries.
And I keep thinking on and on, even if I successfully crammed it all up, will I ever be good enough?
- Wernicke, Sarah & Huberts, Jessie & Wippert, Pia-Maria. (2015). The pain of being misunderstood: Invalidation of pain complaints in chronic low back pain patients. Journal of health psychology. 22. 10.1177/1359105315596371.
- Low HM, Zailan F. Medical students’ perceptions, awareness, societal attitudes and knowledge of autism spectrum disorder: an exploratory study in Malaysia. Int J Dev Disabil. 2016 Dec 5;64(2):86-95. doi: 10.1080/20473869.2016.1264663. PMID: 34141295; PMCID: PMC8115475.