I was having in interesting conversation with K the other day. We were talking about some aspects of my clerkship. Here are a few pertinent excerpts:
I really shouldn’t complain because I know that it’s my turn to be at the bottom. I think what was really the most irritating was feeling like there was a lack of consideration. I try hard to be considerate, so I sometimes get frustrated when other people are inconsiderate.
I, too, was (as a clerk and resident) greatly frustrated by other people being lazy and stupid. But as you will learn – you cannot control others. You can only be responsible for yourself – and you will be perceived far better if you just take note of others stupidity/laziness and then march forward with your duties.
This conversation started because I complained about some annoying and somewhat idiotic things that happened on one of my call shifts. I then felt bad for complaining to her about things because, after all, she is still an attending physician. She certainly made me feel better about things and she was really okay with me complaining to her about it. However, I left the conversation still feeling a little unsure of why I was bothered so much but the situation I was in.
Then last night I got a huge text message from one of my friends and classmates complaining about an experience on her rotation when she tried to leave early because her daycare called and said her daughter was sick. Here’s a small part of that conversation:
Why can’t people be reasonable? This is the problem with being a clerk: you’re just a work horse and not an actual team member. I am so so so so so so over all of clerkship. I’m over being a mature student. I’m over it all. It’s just so dumb and absurd and ridiculous that people think its okay to treat people like crap. Grrrr. I think all I’m learning is how badly I don’t want to be an asshole attending. That lesson comes through loud and clear every single day.
After this conversation, it occurred to me that I completely and 100% identify with what she is feeling. Maybe if I wasn’t a “mature student” (i.e: older than most of the people in my position) I could handle being treated like shit more often. Maybe it would be more acceptable at age 23 instead of age 30 (actually 29, because I’m not having a birthday this year), to be talked to rudely, or asked to do scut work, or having your time wasted… I don’t know.
I am a huge believer that this whole world would be a better place if everyone just tried a little harder to be considerate and treat people with respect. I don’t really understand why there is this deeply ingrained aspect in medical education that you have to treat the people below you with a certain level of arrogance and disrespect… As if it somehow teaches us better. All it does is teach us to treat other people that way. Interestingly,there is a huge movement for doctors to be more professional, treat patients better, and have better bedside manner. However, it is still acceptable to treat learners with disrespect and plain out meanness. When a medical student wants to find a corner and cry because of something someone said or did to them, maybe the whole mechanism of medical education needs to be revisited.
Clearly, any kind of change that might happen won’t happen in my time, so I better just develop thicker skin. In the meantime, I can just figure out how I can be part of the solution as I move forward in the system.