Back to school: pencils, snacks, awesomeness

Portland’s school buses were out en masse this morning as I waited for my own bus up to the hill. It’s happening! School has started, fall is here, everything smells like #2 pencils and pink gum erasers. We’re fully ensconced, already 11 days in to our first block of medical school, and I still find myself checking to make sure I’ve packed all my necessary supplies for the day. Snacks, colored pencils (embryology coloring book, hooray!), clicker, coffee (should be top of the list), stethoscope. I know medical school isn’t necessarily the kind of school that beckons the yellow buses, but I feel like a kid all over again: trying to learn the ropes, not embarrass myself in front of my classmates or teachers, and just generally keep my head above all this new, deep water.

Most of us will start our preceptorships this week, which means we’ll be meeting our first official patient and potential mentors. We’re all a bunch of jittery nerves and clean white coats. (Sidebar: our class looks goooood in them!) It’s easy to get swept under the current of all this novelty, so I’m working on cultivating the habit of stepping away from the overwhelming undertow to acknowledge what an incredible thing it is that we are doing. Today I dove into the hands of my donor body in anatomy lab, discovering the muscles and tendons and nerves and blood vessels that make typing this and touching my future patients possible. I felt a classmate’s radial artery pulse under his skin, learned to correctly pronounce “sphygmomanometer,” and actually use one. A plastic surgeon helped me dissect a finger pulley on my donor body, which is often cut in surgery for stenosing tenosynovitis, or “trigger finger.” This is it, I keep saying to myself, we’ve pulled the trigger. We’ve jumped in. I’m reminded of what we were told in our Principles of Clinical Medicine course today: never forget the story inside the history. Though this was, on its surface, a gentle admonition to not forget our patients’ stories as forming the reasons why they will come to see us, I can’t help but think of it in the context of our first year of this adventure. I hope not to forget the story of how I got here, how I am both reveling and reeling in it. I’m writing this as a reminder to myself, my colleagues, and potential future medical students: pulling the trigger and diving in, feet first and with breathless abandon, is totally, undeniably worth it.