When hearing disappointing news or encountering stress, making time to step back and reassess may help with coping and gaining perspective.
Dear Clinical Students:
After careful thought and deliberation, the School of Medicine has decided to suspend clinical experiences, effective immediately.
Panic. Fear of the future. What would I do? After weeks of seeing the pandemic quickly change the U.S., receiving calls from family members asking questions about OVID-19 that I could only answer with uncertainty, the last bit of stability in my life, medical school, started to crumble under my feet. I’m ashamed to say I spent the next two weeks in a state of unease constantly checking my email for updates from the school administration, checking the news, and reading Reddit posts from other medical students.
I was a tangle of emotions—saddened as family members passed away, feeling inept in my personal role in the response to OVID-19, and worried for my mom, an essential worker. With classes canceled, for the first time since I started this arduous path to become a doctor, I was able to pause. Although I resisted, I finally had to let go and accept that life will be different from here on out. I found I had a choice to make about what my medical school training means to me.
With that pause, I was finally able to breathe again. I used to ruminate that if I just had a little more free time, I could get so much more done. I decided to take this imposed time off to focus on what mattered to me, like supporting my brother’s new YouTube channel, helping out with the pandemic in my own small way, trying this meditation thing I never had time for before, leisurely learning material I never quite got the first time around, and rediscovering my “why” as I was constantly amazed and inspired by our frontline healthcare workers.
As time flew by and coming back to clerkships was imminent, I used my pause to re-examine what my goals were for my clerkship experience. They’ve changed. In February, if you would’ve asked me what my top priorities for clerkship were, I’d have said to strive for honors, try not to mess up (especially in front of an attending), and learn as much as possible. Now, my goals are to learn as much as I can, take care of myself, accept my failures and mistakes, and be there for my team. While I certainly hate the pandemic, I realize it has given me a gift.
Here’s three lessons I learned from this experience:
It can often feel overwhelming trying to juggle challenging situations and emotions all at once. Taking a moment to pause can help quiet the mind to see the situation clearly.
Sometimes revisiting the situation when you feel calm can help you gain a better understanding of it. Take time to lay out all the knowledge you have objectively.
3. Be flexible
Staying flexible through uncertainty can help you to adapt quickly to evolving situations.