We sit, we listen, we attempt to focus and absorb what we are required to know. We learn how to give bad news, even using one another as makeshift "standardized" patients. How does one "standardize" a patient anyway? Who knows, who cares, time to cram for the Endocrine exam.
But what happens when you stop pretending? When you wake up one morning and realize that your doctor called you last night, and he blurted out a word that scares the hell out of you. You open your eyes, get up out of bed, and suddenly the floor jumps to the ceiling, the clouds swoop beneath you, nothing makes sense. And then you attempt to walk gracefully into the life that you are hoping to prevent and treat in others. Suddenly you are surrounded by doctors, friends and family, with calls from every state, flowers of every flavor. Within the week you are under a knife, draped in a hospital gown, poked and prodded in each foot, arm, hand.
And now, here you are: out one organ with radiation yet to come, introduced to a lifetime of medication, in constant fear - are those evil cells still tucked away inside of you, waiting for a moment of weakness to rear their ugly heads once more? And you rapidly become empathetic to the patient's plea for help, for protection-the unequivocal need for outsources of confidence and strength.
Two weeks of perspective that so far exceeds that which you could have hoped to gain in medical school. For you have become the "standardized" patient, but there is nothing standard about what was thrown at you. And nor will be the case for any of your patients. Life changes in a second. We are what we aim to heal, and we must never lose sight of that.
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