Recently, I have found myself becoming increasingly embarrassed to be a Medical Student. I have already explained my embarrassment at some of our colleagues referring to psychiatrists as ‘pest controllers’ and in many ways, I am disappointed for the same reasons. Namely, it is the way we are treating each other at Medical School.
Empathy. It is a word we are taught so many times. We must be empathetic towards our patients – that is, put ourselves into their shoes to get an idea of their situation. Being a mental health patient myself, I am very pleased that this message is being drilled into us at Medical School. This is all well and good, but what is upsetting me is that many of us are not being empathetic towards fellow Medical Students. We are not there for each other in the way we should be.
And quite frankly, it is embarrassing.
Out of everyone, we should be the ones who are the first to rush to each other’s aid should we need anything. It is why we apparently went into Medicine – to help people (that’s what it comes down to essentially). If someone is sick or in need, I would hope that we’d be one of the first to rush to said person’s aid. But we are not. Why? What on Earth is going on?
The danger of competitiveness
This, I feel, is something that is extremely petty.
As Medical Students, many of us tend to have an underlying nature of being competitive. I feel that much of this stems from immaturity, or perhaps naivety. Many of us are used to coming top of our schools, scoring those 90% marks on our school tests and are now not willing to settle for anything less. This makes me almost pleased that I got rejected first time round when I applied for Medicine, for it helped knock out some of this competitiveness that was in me. (This is not to say that everyone who got in first time round are competitive).
A bit of competitiveness in isolation is something which I don’t have much of a problem with, really. What I do have a problem with, however, is what this competitiveness can lead to in some situations. Recently, I have had many fellow Medical Students come up to me and tell me some stories that have really irked me. Some of these students, for various reasons, have had to take time off from their work and so asked their colleagues for notes to help them catch up.
Completely reasonable, in my eyes. I mean, surely people would be willing to help each other understand things, right? Wrong. A lot of people are so unwilling to do something as simple as just sharing their notes to help their fellow Medical Students. In fact, in one case, someone had CHANGED their notes to make them have important information missing before sending them on to another Medical Student who needed them. This is almost as though some are purposefully trying to screw each other over.
As I said, it is petty.
Not being there for one another
This is something else that many other fellow Medical Students have approached me about. The number of Medical Students who go through something traumatic is actually a very large number. The number of these Medical Students who felt that their closest friends at Medical School were there for them is, in my experience, a rather small number. Admittedly, my figures will be skewed slightly for the Medical Students that approach me will be a biased sample. I mean, it will only really be the Medical Students that feel alone that will approach me or others for help – otherwise, it is likely they will have their own avenues of support.
Once again, this disappoints me. The excuses that people come up with tend to go a bit like:
- They’re too busy revising for their exams.
- They don’t want to be surrounded by negativity.
- They have too many social events to attend to.
In my eyes, these are pretty weak excuses. With exams, I do not for a second believe that they come before the well being of a fellow human being, let alone a friend. Sure, it is not possible to be there for everyone 24/7, but this is very rarely what people expect. My frustration comes from people not even being able to spare 10 minutes to help their fellow colleagues in need.
In terms of being surrounded by negativity, this is extremely sad. As Medical Students – and certainly as doctors – we will be surrounded by lots of negativity in our jobs. Whether it’s having to break bad news to a family, not being able to resuscitate someone or a patient simply not responding to treatment. It goes back to my first point – if we can’t deal with and help our own, how can we ever hope to deal with and help our patients?
We are better than this.
These two are my main points as to how I feel, really. I would like to add that every Medical Student is certainly NOT like this. Having spoken to many fellow Medical Students, however, the same issues seem to be cropping up again and again. I would hope that it is simply a matter of immaturity, and that things will improve by the time we actually become doctors.
What is going on?