Uncomfortable, scared, confused.
That's how I felt on the other side of the table, on the patient side. Even though I'm in medicine, I sat in the consult room with my father in a low level of despair. I've personally been on the patient side many times before - so why was I low key spazzing out?
I never like to break out the "I'm in medicine" card or overstep when I feel I need to respect their role as provider and mine as patient/family. I think it also helps me understand what it feels like on the other side, to hopefully better treat my future patients.
I think it's about control, or lack of it. If the problem resides with me, I have the capability to fix it, or at least work through it. But if my father was sick? How do I be there for him in a way that is comforting, informative, and helpful? I know this sounds like a simple thing - be there for your family and friends, something I do every day. And be comforting and there for your patients, that I did daily as well. But the clash between my two worlds was an interesting one, and I don't think medical school prepares you for it.
So how do we prepare ourselves mentally (and physically)? Let's talk about transitions. Right now I'm entering one from medical school into residency, as a student into a resident physician. There is a huge divide between where I am now, and where I will be in 1 year. But until I go through it, I will still be the same person I am as a fourth year on day 1 of residency - and yet be expected to know and do everything as an intern. It'll be a process and a journey, one that I am looking forward to - because residency, just like medical school, cannot just be a means to an end. If it is, that's how we breed burnt out, jaded, and unhealthy physicians who are miserable. Because the system is broken.
Entering medical school, I thought of it as purely academic: a rigorous curriculum and hours and hours of non stop studying because dedication was the one thing that could get you through. And it is, but in a different perspective: perseverance. Every step of medicine has its hoops to jump through, and each is like a mental exercise to prepare you layer by layer, to become a future provider. Mentally, introspection and re-focus are key - asking yourself, what aspects are hard for me? What scares me? What can I do about it, and how does it help me become a better daughter, friend, person, provider? Physically, staying active and feeding your body whole nutrients to keep it fresh and alert to tackle each day.
This experience ultimately brought me back to the same questions that consistently motivate me to do & be my best:
If not me, who?
If not now, when?
Don't underestimate the little things, that end up being the big things for patients - like being compassionate, explaining thoroughly without jargon, and being happy to help. Being a human first helps you as well as the patient.