Wednesday, June 29, 2005

New Interns and Residents!

This is the season when new medical students, interns, and residents are starting in hospitals across the country. As the saying goes, it's the week "when those who know are replaced by those who care." I've had the pleasure of helping several of them adjust to life in medicine over the past week, and wanted to spread good vibes to any and all fresh faces in brand new white coats.

On my very first day working as a doctor, I was the psychiatry intern in a Veterans' Hospital unit. Most of the day was spent learning the computer systems, meeting new patients and nurses, and familiarizing myself with the types of computerized 'paperwork' I would have to do. At the end of the day, I thought I had been doing pretty well when the chief resident called me out of the workroom. Somberly, he walked me down to the exam room where nobody else could hear, and gave me a frank assessment of my first day on the job: "Fetter, we need to talk about how you spell 'schizophrenia'."

The classic book about the nuttiness of residency is House of God, but any doctor has stories about the ludicrous and tragic sides of medicine. Today though, before the fatigue and cynicism sink in, the hospital is full of well-rested, eager, scared-as-hell doctors-in-training, who can use all the good vibes they can get.

(And don't worry, their supervisors are eagle-eyed this time of year for beginners' mistakes, but I wouldn't schedule an elective surgery if I could help it).

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