Neurology resident physician Nita Chen, MD journals through her first year of residency in her graphic medicine column, Pocket Doodles: My First Year as a Physician.
He pulled his chair up to the desk and flipped open his laptop. The young doctor, with thirteen years of pre-collegiate preparatory schooling, four years of college work, and a final four additional years of relevant medical education underneath his belt, attempted to yawn away exhaustion and scrolled through the patient list for the day.
By anyone’s standards, from a medical perspective, we did everything right. But all I could think about is how much we hurt this boy by saving his life. How we saved his life just enough, not to kill him, just to take away every meaningful part of human existence.
I dance with hula hoops as a form of self-expression and catharsis. I have been practicing this art form for over four years now, and it always amazes me how much more there is to learn.
At the beginning of my intern year, I bought a ukulele. I started intern year at a sprint, like anyone does, arms full of hope. This was quickly extinguished, lost in an atmosphere so devoid of hope that it all flew out of my arms to settle into places so far apart, it might as well have been floating in the vacuum of space.
On my first day of intern year, my attending corrected me in the hallway after I introduced myself to a patient by my first name. Following this, I sheepishly adopted a habit of saying “I’m Dr. Last Name” when sticking out my hand to greet a patient. In clinic, the nurses call me “Dr. Last Name,” even when saying a casual hello. When you refer to yourself as a doctor enough times, you start to believe it.
You are so soft / in voice and touch, / gliding through / the mines that are set in
I have always wanted to fly / but they wouldn’t let me / until I signed a contract / built on blood and tears
I’m supposed to be able to explain this. / The details to paint a picture. / But it’s too much, and I don’t want to relive it.
Early in intern year, I reached out to residents in other departments who were part of my patients’ care in the hospital. In an effort to redirect my thought patterns, I asked them how and what drives their interaction styles and their medical decisions.
I distinctly remember my drive to the hospital for the first shift of my residency five years ago. It was a night shift, a fact that only added to my trepidation. My brain bounced frantically back and forth among a random assortment of topics of which I lacked, I felt, sufficient knowledge, but which knowledge I felt sure I would imminently be called upon to use in a critical situation.
On Match Day, you are assigned to a new family for the next three to seven years. This will be the city where you might buy your first home, the city where you may meet the people who will speak at your wedding. An algorithm shuffles you into your assigned place in a new family tree.