Med School Diaries

Post-exam Thoughts

The coffee shop I am in is blasting upbeat pop songs on the radio. Meanwhile, I am typing in my laptop. Processing my thoughts and emotions in between.

I just finished the IPA exam being one of the first batch of students who took it. It is a practical exam students take at the end of the school year to gauge their skill in history taking and physical examination. For us freshmen, it’s mostly to gauge the former than the latter.

Prior to taking the exam, I didn’t feel nervous at all. I was confident of what I knew and what I was supposed to say and do. It wasn’t until I was told that I was part of the first batch that I felt the jitters. I could almost hear my heart beat and my hands started shaking. This is it, I thought to myself. Ready or not, here I come.

Long story short, the exam went fine. I was able to finish on time, albeit my performance wasn’t flawless. I forgot a few things and there were questions I forgot to ask. My hands were also too shaky to write and my brain took time to process and translate the relayed information. On top of that, my sequence of extracting patient history was jumbled. I made two rounds of interview, with the physical exam in between, in order to cover information that I missed – past history, family history, social history, etc. Luckily, the sophomore assigned to me was gracious and she supplied me details related to the interview that I wasn’t able to ask. After the exam, I was evaluated by the tutor and her feedback were mostly positive. However, I was too fixated on the next task (rewriting the history) that I wasn’t able to concentrate on our conversation thinking that we were consuming time that I should be using for rewriting. Later outside I realized that we were given another few minutes. Sorry, Doc! and thank you for being so kind and reassuring.

I didn’t stay long in school. The people I took the exam with went on their respective ways and my friends were still upstairs preparing and waiting for their turn.

Right now, I can’t say that what I’m feeling right now is happiness. It’s more like relief. Relief that the exam is finally done and I can now move on to other things such as catching up on my readings and studying for the current learning issues. But more than that, I feel immensely sad. Sad that after almost eight months into med school, I am not living up to the kind of student I had hoped to be before school started. You see, I had all these grandiose ideas of what I should be and should be doing and now I’m barely even catching up. Most of the time I find myself running behind, meagerly trying to ride the current and hoping not to drown.

Am I happy in med school?

Honestly, no. A lot of times I thought about quitting thinking to myself, What have I got to lose? but I guess I just cannot make peace with the notion that quitting does not make me a failure. So I continue even though there are nights where I would rather sleep or surf aimlessly on the internet than read my book. I wake up and get ready for school even though I would rather not go. I go through the motions of being a med student and sometimes I would be able to distract myself from the rumblings of my heart. Some days are easier than the others and I would manage to find the motivation to study. And then there are days like this when I would wonder if I had made the right choice and if it were better to leave.

I still don’t know.

I just know that I am tired. I am tired of having to constantly struggle with whether I should quit or stay. I thought that when I decided to give it my all, things would get easier for me. That I would stop having to deal with doubts and second-guessing myself and I would look forward to coming to school and learning something new. That my outlook would remain positive. That I would strive hard to become a doctor no matter what. Period.

But meaning and joy eludes me and day by day my heart becomes as dry and dreary as the building of my college.

Should I quit med school? Must I stay in med school?

What I want most right now is to have something to look forward to. Something tangible to hold on to as I weather through doubts and discouragement. To be happy with where I am and what I am doing and to truly feel it in my heart.

If I could have that, I think I’ll manage the rest.

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