University of Vermont

A Rotation Reflection

I never thought I would be a "homeless" third year medical student, but I have 4 out-of-state clerkship rotations, meaning I'm a medical student drifter for 7 months of my 3rd year. I couldn't swallow the idea of rent payments when I would be gone for so long so I chose the path of couch-surfing for the 3 bridge weeks between rotations when I would be in Vermont. Classmates have been amazing, letting me stay with them and even letting me borrow their cars so I can pick up early morning ambulance shifts at Essex Rescue.  I'm not unique in my class either. There are several of us who have chosen this "apartment-less" adventure, hoping to save a few bucks from our 7% interest student loans. Though I haven’t the slightest idea what 4th year will bring, so far for me, nomad life is great.

I'm currently on Rotation 2, (trauma) surgery in sunny West Palm Beach, Florida. I spent yesterday afternoon under the palm trees at the pool and plan to go to Harry Potter World this weekend. This is a bit unusual as free time is actually quite sparse. My days are usually jam packed with rounds in the morning, catching as many surgeries as possible, sneaking in with anesthesiologists (if I am being honest it is really with the CRNA’s—certified registered nurse anesthetists) to do intubations whenever possible, and then getting paged down to the ER for all the trauma alerts coming in. One of my favorite things about this rotation is that I get to pick what surgeries to scrub in on. I go to the OR board and see what is being done that day and then ask the surgeon if they mind if I scrub in. I’ve never been told no. To me it seems a bit like a food menu where I look through all the options and then pick the most appetizing choice. It’s amazing. But it’s also busy, jumping from OR to OR.

There have been several days where I forget to eat lunch, not because I don’t have time but mostly because I don’t spend time processing that the sensation in my belly is hunger. Then, every night, I go home exhausted but somehow still try to study or read. I find this is generally not very productive since I end up reading every line about 5 times. My newest game plan has been to read at the hospital as much as possible before I realize that I’m too sleepy to study.

Now if it sounds like I am complaining, I apologize as whining is far from my goal here. If there is anything that I have learned from this rotation, it is to be grateful for every moment. You could be driving down the road one minute and then get T-boned the next, leaving you paralyzed, or dead. Further, I learned a huge lesson in perspective this past week. I walked into the ICU and found a patient watching the devastating news about the tornados in Oklahoma.  Here, this patient was quite sick yet not as concerned for herself as she was about the wellbeing of others. It was one of those “smack-in-the-face” reminders to keep things in perspective. The “suffering” I think I am feeling as a third year medical student could be much, much worse. I decided I will be grateful for every minute I am blessed enough to be able to take care of others, and I will do it with a genuinely happy smile on my face.