When I Grow Up

Inspired by barefootmed’s post about passion, I decided to create a “mindmap” from a post I drafted up back in October of 2013 that illustrates my thought process as I was deciding what career would suit me best.

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This is of course a watered down version of the real deal. There were many other professions and disciplines that I considered going into whether it be for a moment or for an extended period of time. I wish I could say that I had it figured out in high school. I mean, I thought I did – like many other pre-meds, I had declared that I wanted to be a doctor back when I was 5 years old. But as you learn more about the world, you just realize there is just so much more out there than your generic, “teacher, firefighter, lawyer, doctor” spiel that you get in elementary school. Friends, movies, tv shows, books, professors, colleagues, people – they all gave me perspective.

While I am happy that I found my way back to my five-year old’s dream, up until two years ago, I honestly never knew why I was hell-bent on becoming a doctor. There aren’t any physicians in my immediate or extended family. I wasn’t exposed to death at an early age, nor was I diagnosed with any life-threatening disease that required frequent trips to the hospital. I had no fractures or broken bones growing up and I was seldom sick so the only time I would see my pediatrician was once a year during a wellness exam. That’s all. So why was I “passionate” about becoming a doctor when I couldn’t identify where that passion stemmed from?

High school students (and younger) are often led to believe that in order to find that right job for you, you must be passionate about it. This hit close to home for me because there were countless times in college and high school where I would find something science-related boring and question my intentions for going into the medical field. I had a high school guidance counselor who stood up to my freshmen class and told us that if we weren’t passionate about science and math, we were probably not going to become doctors. It struck a nerve then, and it still irks me now that a counselor would say that to students who barely had a grasp on what they wanted to do, let alone understood what the term “passionate” entailed. As someone who naturally excelled in English and History, I definitely started questioning myself after hearing just that one phrase. And that’s probably what spawned my inability to commit to one profession during my college years.

Of course, nothing beats being Mr. Feeny.

So back in October of 2013, months after graduating from college and on the brink of taking classes for the MCAT, I sat down and tried to logically explain what worked and what didn’t. And I came to the conclusion that it’s just not ONE thing that makes this profession suitable. It doesn’t boil down to passion. It stems from a myriad of factors including my likes, dislikes, and job expectations. And when all of that was taken into consideration, I just knew. Regardless of how long this process will take, nor how many hoops I need to jump through to get there, this is what I want to be when I grow up.

<3 A.

 

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Scribing

I may or may not have mentioned this already, but I have been working as an ER Scribe for the past few months now at a nearby hospital. I was actually hired on by the company back in October, but I had to go through an arduous training period until I was finally “recommended” to begin solo shifts. The length of training was understandable given that scribes work directly with physicians and ensure that these physicians are billed adequately for their time. One mistake could cost the ER doctor a lot of money, or worse, a lawsuit. But some of the delay was partly due to administration and miscommunication, so I couldn’t become a “full-fledged scribe” until earlier this year.

Before I go on, for those of you who do not know what the job entails, which is totally okay because up until a year ago, I knew very little myself, as a scribe, I help write up charts for patients who come into the ER, allowing the physician to spend more 1-on-1 time with the patient.

23 year old female presents to the ED with complaint of insomnia onset three days ago. Patient complains of back pain and weakness, but denies vomiting, nausea, or any other symptoms.

Scribing is becoming increasingly popular as hospitals shift from paper to electronic medical records. And why pay extra for an educated individual, when you have boatloads of pre-meds who would jump at the chance of working with physicians directly! Thus, I am the physician’s shadow, listening in when a patient explains their symptoms and medical history and typing away furiously when the physician dictates to me findings from a physical exam. Is it overwhelming? Most definitely. But is it interesting? Hell yes! I have seen so many exquisite cases in just my few months at the hospital so far. And if there is one thing I have taken away from my experience it’s that during a shift, a physician may be presented with 100 patients with abdominal pain as their chief complaint. However, it takes a keen observer to distinguish that one patient who might have a unique and possibly life-threatening diagnosis. No matter the time or how tired you may be, you cannot afford to careless when it comes to a person’s life.

It is astonishing how invested I am in this job, when initially, I had only applied to silence my mother who was badgering me about finding a “real job” for my résumé. I’m sure there is a crafty way to present ‘babysitting’ on your résumé, but it just didn’t seem like something that would impress future schools or employers. Don’t get me wrong, babysitting has been, and still is, a great way to make cash. I still babysit on the side now because I do make 2x, sometimes even 3x, the amount I make as a scribe. But the experience that I have gained as a scribe, is just unparalleled. I have learned more field-related information in the past few months than I did in the last 23 years of my life!

There is definitely a steep learning curve associated to this job. During my first few weeks of training, I had over 600 abbreviations and terms thrown at me, some so foreign-sounding that I questioned what I was getting myself into.

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when I found out that HA stood for headache -.-

To be honest, I am still learning, and will probably continue to learn until my last day as a scribe, but that’s something I should be used to if I want to become a physician. Just the other day, I was working with an older physician who was unsure if a patient’s diagnosis should be paraphimosis or phimosis. She had me do a Google search (which revealed some interesting images in the ER that I’m sure would be labeled NSFW) and then proceeded to devise a mnemonic to remember the difference between the two terms.

As I mentioned above, I work 8+ hour shifts, most of those shifts are devoid of breaks, and 95% of the time, I am on my feet. I come home mentally and physically exhausted. But, I have worked many jobs in the past and I can honestly say that this is the first job that I am so involved in what I am doing, that time simply flies by. There are the occasional glances at the clock – I’m only human after all – but for the most part, I am constantly entertained with charts or looking up bits of information online, or engaging with the physicians, that before I know it, my shift is over and I leave with a sense of fulfillment. It just validates the sentiment that when you are doing what you love, you’re never really “working”.

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<3 A.

 

 

Self-Awareness

It has now been a month since I have whole-heartedly committed to studying for the MCAT. While there is a tremendous amount of content, it is not as horrifying once you actually sit down and begin the process. That being said, I am beyond thankful that I signed up for a preparatory course. I’ll admit it, on record now, that I have absolutely no self-discipline when it comes to studying. That, and I forgot almost everything science-related that I learned in college, so it’s nice to have a little review. And it’s not as if my review course is torturous or boot camp-like (flashback to those 9-hour Saturday sessions for SAT) – on the contrary, I have been loving everything that I have been learning re-learning. My instructors are thoughtful and eager to help us succeed. The only unsettling factor that has been nagging at me for the past four weeks, is that my Verbal Reasoning instructor is – in all honesty – Sarah Michelle Gellar‘s doppelgänger. Yes, Buffy is teaching my class and brings the same “kickass, no bullshit” attitude. So you definitely do not want to argue with her when she’s telling you that it is necessary to skip a passage on the real VR section. She also has a tongue piercing which is hard to not stare at during the two and a half hour-long class. 

We do not joke about the VR section.
We do not joke about the VR section.

I know, it’s ridiculous, but don’t think that will stop me from inquiring one day whether she realizes that she could be the Vampire Slayer’s twin.

So am I living, breathing, consuming MCAT material yet? Nope. Maybe ask me again when I hit the two month mark in a week? But for now, I am still on a somewhat lax schedule where I include time to gym, work, watch an episode (or two), and read. You would think after scrapping both Facebook and Tumblr out of my life, I would find less to do online. Wrong. Discard those two platforms, and I have now turned to NPR, blogging, and somewhat surprisingly – Yahoo! Answers. No, I am not kidding – I think I may have a new addiction and this is answering questions on Yahoo! Answers. How? I have no clue. Perhaps it’s my rebound as I fill this void that Facebook has left. Haha, but really, there are so many trolls on the internet nowadays, that I think people are genuinely grateful when you can pause and explain an answer thoroughly to them. Personally, I know how frustrating it is to be working on a problem late at night or early in the morning and turning to the internet to seek help that you cannot get from friends, parents, teachers, or tutors. So one day, I just casually went on the Education & Reference section and began to answer a few homework questions in depth. That’s when the “Best Answers” began to hit and before I knew it, I was playing a game, trying to raise my percentage and get to the next level. Which, let me tell you, is such a high! And a total self-esteem boost when you’re battling with the MCAT. And look, now I have a nifty little crown!

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Comic relief in the form of a lookalike and Yahoo! Answers. What else is getting me through this long and daunting process? Driving. New York might have four seasons, but along with being ridiculously cold, it thrives on public transportation. Which is great for the environment and all, but what I have discovered is that driving, on my own, is therapeutic for me. Throw in some songs from John Mayer or The Civil Wars, and I can handle a long commute to work or driving home from class. What about traffic? As much as I despised the 405, traffic isn’t horrible. Especially if I’m not competing with time. And that’s just another lovely commodity from my gap year. For once, in my life, I am not competing neck-in-neck with time or finances. Work is on my time and studying is on my time. I dictate when it’s go time and when it’s time for a break. In a way, I am getting to know myself better as I form these boundaries in sync with no one else’s schedule but mine. And living at home might have its drawbacks, but to not have to worry about money for rent, food, clothes, and utilities is bliss. And to be safe, secure, and surrounded by my support system of best friends and family, I can finally focus on my self-respect (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs ring a bell?).

That is one of the most valuable tidbits I have learned so far from the past three months. They say college is where you find out who you truly are. But in my opinion, it’s when you fail, withdraw yourself, become attuned to your needs – that’s when you start to create your identity. For most of my life, I saw myself as others tended to view me. I am just now realizing that there is so much more to me that even I have not yet figured out. An example? I have been told since I was six years old that I was extremely mature and “mom-like” for my age. But the more I learn about myself, the more I realize that this, in actuality, was not true. It is my lack of maturity that has brought me to this point in life.

This is not just about becoming a physician. This is about leading a life towards self-actualization. Hopefully the two will coincide as I continue on my path towards my own aspirations and desires.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”
          – F. Scott Fitzgerald

<3 A.