Yes that’s right, I didn’t cry, I didn’t run screaming from the ward, and I even passed.
I was terrible though. A walking bag of nerves and terror, in approximately equal parts, with a racing heartbeat and feeling very sick. I thought I’d failed every station (there were only six in the end) and nearly walked out half way through, because I just didn’t see the point of carrying on. I was really upset and annoyed at myself for being a complete failure when I went to get my feedback, and not looking forward to crying all over the examining consultants when they told me how bad I was. And then they all commented on my lovely bedside manner and good systematic approach and passed me! I got 3 Bs and 3 Cs, so I’m very happy with that.
But it did make me wonder how bad you have to be to actually fail… To be honest, I wouldn’t have passed me. And I do know of a few people who did fail. They must have been truly god-awful – rude to the patient, or not asking consent, or standing on the wrong side of the bed! Something fundamental, I’m sure. I did at least get those right!
(For anyone remotely interested, my surgical stations were a lipoma and massive unilateral lower limb lymphoedema, and the medical ones were aortic stenosis, left hemiplegia (stroke), pulmonary fibrosis and Parkinson’s)
The whole thing really got me thinking about why I panic so much over the practical exams. You know, the OSCEs, presentations, vivas - they all turn me to a snivelling wreck. And I wonder if it’s because everything I have ever wanted revolves around being a doctor.
Have you ever seen that episode of Scrubs, where Carla and JD are supposed to go to a photography exhibition? When they’ve had an argument because he asserted his doctor status over her as a nurse? Anyway, in this episode, Carla says to JD that his self esteem is so wrapped up in being a doctor, that it defines him and the way he sees the world. She says he looks down on her because she’s a nurse and he’s a doctor. And he says yes, sometimes he does.
That’s me. My self esteem is so caught up in medicine, and it defines who I am. Therefore, if I fail an exam its personal. Failing an exam is always going to be horrible, and ‘personal’, but to me it’s an attack on who I am. Not just something I’ve had a go at and got it wrong, don’t worry try again kind of thing, it’s actually failing at being myself. Being a medical student is how I define myself.
This could be a good thing – it might mean I really do want to do this, and it is going to satisfy me for the rest of my life. Or it might mean that the only reason I’m doing it is out of fear that I’ll be less of a person if I don’t.