The next time I introduce myself to a patient, it will be as "doctor." Today was my last clinical day for the rest of my medical school career. And so Mr. Jefferson, who is in his 20s and just discovered he suffers from narcolepsy and sleep paralysis, will be the last patient to have heard me introduced as "a medical student in here today."
I was trying, on my drive home after my shift, to remember the first patient I saw in the hospital, just for comparison. But I can't remember him well. I do remember he was an elderly gentleman, with heart failure and a body suggesting no immediate danger of starvation, but I can't place his name.
More instructive, perhaps, is to try and remember how I interacted with him. I can recall my checklist, the 3x5 card crammed with obscure questions I generally forgot. And I also recollect that I had not yet learned the physical exam, so my three quarters of an hour in his room was solely to gather his story.
Most of what I've learned has been piecemeal, I think. Starting back in first year with interviews, progressing to the physical exam, learned in parts with a classmate first, then practiced as a whole on patients, trimmed under the influence of surgery attendings and residents mocking the "medical student exam" for its thoroughness to a cursory affair, lengthened during medicine, and focused when my knowledge expanded sufficiently. I remember first year, picking up a copy of the New England Journal of Medicine, forcing myself to read through an article, understanding half the the words at most. Now I can pick up that same article, and at least understand 95% of the words, usually I can follow the concept, and I'm beginning to think how I would apply that article to my own practice.
Though it is still scary to think of calling myself doctor, to think of being a doctor, to make life and death decisions, it is easier, thinking how far I've come.
The next two months are pretty laid back. A month of reading medical history, and a month of "transition to residency" classes. Then graduation, vacation, and the specter of July 1.