The musings of a final year medical student

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Feel the fear and do it anyway

Somehow I am now a final year medical student, and in nine months I’ll be starting my first job as a doctor. I’ve passed the dreaded finals and I’m trying to learn how to do the job. 
As I am towards the end of this degree I have been reflecting on this insane journey. Medical school has been this constant rollercoaster that has challenged me in so many different ways. I have absolutely loved it, but sometimes hated it. I have felt the happiest, but sometimes the unhappiest I have ever been. 

Overall, what has struck me most is the need for self-confidence. Through every obstacle, whether it be a research project, an OSCE, a presentation or a DOPs, I have doubted my abilities. You would have thought by now I would have overcome that fear, but it seems to transfer itself on to whatever medical task I am given.

And so, my current focus of self-deprecation is around my A&E rotation. It has been really tough. It is the first time I’ve properly worked in an emergency department and it feels far removed from the other placements I have done. On top of that, there is the expectation now that as a final year student I need to try to spend less time observing and more time doing the job under supervision. There is a certain irony in working so hard on your skills, but once asked to use them you feel you can’t do it. In all honesty I’ve never considered ED as a career, so I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it from the start. My fear of failing was so strong that it stopped me from truly getting stuck in and having a go. For example, saying no to trying to cannulate a ROSC patient who had just come into resus. With a lot of encouragement, I reluctantly did my first catheter. These are things I’m trained to do and have already been examined on, but when it becomes real it seems like an impossible task.

However, what I have realised is that so many medical students feel the same way. Medics in younger years have asked me for my advice; hearing their worries reminded me of how much I also struggled with those lectures and exams. I have openly said on social media about my A&E struggles and several lovely doctors have reached out - they too can relate to how I feel. They remember the fear, the voice that says you’re not good enough when really you are. Laureen reminded me of a post she had written, which includes the quote “Feel the fear and do it anyway”. She also described the hesitation before cannulating a difficult patient. We all have self-doubt, but we don’t always show it. 

I then watched a fantastic TED talk about the skill of self-confidence. I had never thought of self-confidence as a skill as such, but now I believe it really is. I definitely recommend watching it if you’re like me and need a confidence boost. 

As I wrote this I was thinking of a photo to add to the post. I chose the photo above of me on my medical elective this Summer. I knew I wanted to go to New Zealand, so I made the choice to go out there on my own. Looking back, I can't believe I decided to go to the other side of the world, my first time solo travelling. Luckily I didn't let the fear stop me from making the most of the opportunities I had. 

Tomorrow is my first A&E night shift and I’m very nervous. I don’t want to go but I have to. I absolutely love being a medical student and I am so glad and grateful to be on this course. I’m trying my best to not to let fear get in the way of that.

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