Interview season is starting at my program. I’m trying to remember what it felt like to be a fourth-year student, interviewing, watching the Match draw closer one day at a time. I remember intense fear – that I would forget some essential piece of the application; that I had applied to programs way too good for me, and would get no interviews; that I would get lost on the way to an interview, and arrive two hours late, or never; that I would say something incredibly stupid; that I had said something incredibly stupid; that no one would really want me for a resident (to this day, I still can’t believe that someone did; I am so grateful to my program director for taking me); and so on. But overall, those winter months last year seem so far away – a different life, maybe a different universe.
At the beginning of third year, anatomy and the beginning of med school seemed a long time ago. During fourth year, those lost months at the beginning of third year, when I got my feet under me and learned what clinical medicine was, seemed to be ancient history. Now, only four months later, June seems to be a million years ago. Being a doctor is like a new skin that has grown to fit. Like the long white coat, at the beginning of the year, the title “doctor” seemed strange and foreign – misplaced. Now, like my coat (a comfortable shelter and repository of treasures), it feels right. I am a doctor. In July, I was a medical student pretending to be a doctor. Now, although there’s a long way to go before I’m anything like a good one, I am a doctor.
And I am a surgeon. During fourth year, even though we had chosen our specialties and started to give our loyalties to them, we were still undifferentiated, as it were: genus medical student. Now, only a few months later, we’ve clearly speciated: surgery, ER, medicine. We’ve embraced the stereotypes. As a medical student, I used to think perhaps I could be “a different kind of surgeon.” Now, although I’m still trying to be polite to nurses and medical colleagues and patients, I’ve changed my goals somewhat: I want to be that cowboy, go-getter, jump-into-trouble, stereotypical surgeon. (And the medicine interns write three-page notes, thoughtful, discursive, dissecting every inch of the patient’s pathogenesis; and the ER interns vaunt their need to learn only [ok, primarily] emergent interventions and management.)
But to us interns, the best thing about interview season is the reminder that we are almost halfway done with the year. Next year’s crop of – victims, laborers, colleagues – is almost ready. Six-seven more months, and we won’t be interns anymore. I remember our second years greeting us in June: “So good to see you guys; you can be the interns now.”
That’s not necessarily a good thing. I can’t really enjoy the prospect of graduating out of internship without contemplating, with dread, the prospect of being a junior resident, with all the responsibility that implies. Perhaps for just two or three months here I can enjoy watching other people interviewing for my current job, without worrying too much about what will happen next July.