Allison and I talk about a subject that came up in the Premed Hangout Facebook Group about students talking about what it’s like being a physician.
One of the common pieces of feedback that I give on personal personal statements and mock interviews is don’t assume what being a physician is like. Just because you’ve shadowed, you’ve got clinical experience, or just because you’re a nurse, PA or NP, don’t assume you know what being a physician is like.
And lately in the hangout group, something kind of sparked some interesting conversations from Allison, which leads into the discussion today.
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[03:45] You Don’t Know What It’s Like to Be a Physician
Allison was on the Hangout and she saw some posts of individuals and she appreciates each position in the profession. So she greatly respects all the time and effort these premed students have put in. And for someone who is doing their job as a nurse for 25 years means you have enormous knowledge.
So Allison noticed that some individuals were either directly saying or insinuating what’s it’s like to be a doctor. And it comes as ignorant, egotistical, uninformed, and assuming. This is the last thing you want to convey when you’re trying to get into medical school.
Having worked in healthcare doesn’t give you the knowledge or experience you need to be able to make claims or thoughts and say thing about what the job is.
That said, you don’t know what it’s like to be a physician. You haven’t spent four years in medical school or sleepless nights during your residency for 3-5 years and fellowship for another couple of years. You haven’t been the one who has had those conversations with family members, being the physician in the room, telling them that their loved one has passed.
You may have witnessed it as a student shadowing or death as an EMT or a nurse. But until you go through that process, and until you are the one where the responsibility lies on, you can’t know what it’s like.
[10:10] Are the Doctors Entitled? and the Concept of Empathy
Allison explains that the way medicine has been constructed for the last several hundred years and especially in the modern day, the physician is the team leader. And there’s a reason behind it. Your job is to lead your team successfully to take the best care of the patient and their family.
As an EMT, your role is huge as you try to bring people in so they can get medical care and stabilize them. Your job is huge!
And the concept of empathy comes in here. You cannot assume you understand someone else’s life. You can think or try as best you can to imagine what it would be like to walk in that person’s shoes. But the minute you start saying you understand or you get it, that’s not good.
Moreover, the last thing a patient wants to hear from you is that you understand what it’s like. But no, you don’t. You don’t understand what it’s like to have a ALS and be dying or to be leaving a family of young kids behind. You don’t understand to be dying of cancer when you’re pregnant, and so on.
Therefore, it’s unethical to say that you understand what it’s like for them. It only creates distress, anger, and pain. Don’t say it otherwise you’re going to make people frustrated.
[13:00] Saying It on Your Personal Statement or Interview
From the interview or personal statement side of things, this comes off less as being insulted but more of being funny since it has no bearing in anything. You’re not going to believe it.
Allison adds that if you’re doing things that are going to put yourself in the position to fail or to not succeed, then they want to help you re-adjust your mindset or at least educate you on why that mindset is not going to be useful.
With the unbelievable challenges of physicians nowadays, physicians are asked to do more and more all the time. For instance, there are physicians who are working till 11 pm and going asleep for a few hours and getting back the next day. And many of them are literally breaking their backs to just make it all work.
So when other people say how doctors are making big money, they’re failing to recognize how hard that job entails.
[17:00] The Challenges of a Physician and Dealing with Burnout
Several physicians have gotten burned out to some degree, whether if you’re married, or have a family, or is single. Hospital administrators and insurance companies are telling physicians how to practice. They have to spend 80% of their day on the computer or on the phone trying to get things authorized by insurance companies. Physicians also need to deal with their livelihood and their wellbeing, which are not even prioritized. They need to deal with the constant pressure of continuing medical education credits. And so on.
[19:20] Physician and Ego
There are plenty of physicians with huge egos. But to paint all physicians as egotistical is not a good thing. Also, there’s a difference between begin arrogant and being confident. You can have an ego to the size of the moon but if that’s going to get in the way of clinical care and how you interact with the clinical team then that becomes a problem.
Ultimately, Allison wants to encourage everyone that whatever point you have in your life, it’s important that you have good mentorship and you have good, positive support, and feedback.
This all said, there’s something special about giving back to other people. For Allison, contributing to other people is like breathing. So as a physician, you would want to contribute to other people. At the end of the day, all she really wants to do is to bring light, positive energy, hope, and acknowledge all of you in all the hard work you to do to get to where you are in this journey.
Lastly, continue to find that inner strength. It’s going to help you survive the premed process, get into medical school, and survive medical school and residency, and being a physician. But you just don’t want to survive, you want to thrive. Find that inner strength and be a force of positive energy in this world. Be collaborative and supportive. Shine your light on other people.
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