The Challenges of Rewards of the Third Year of Medical School

Sarah Gardner '15
uvmmedicine blogger Sarah Gardner ’15

This year, I have lived in West Palm Beach, Fla.; Bangor, Maine; Danbury, Conn.; Chester, Vt.; and Burlington, Vt. I have lived in a condominium, an apartment building, a glorified frat house, and with a family whose kids had all grown and moved away. I have worked in level one trauma center emergency departments and operating rooms, rural private practices, university clinics and locked psychiatry wards. I have worked alongside doctors from Syria, Guatemala, India, Puerto Rico, California, and Vermont. This is what life is like as a third year medical student at the University of Vermont.

I can’t imagine having a clearer picture of how different medicine can be around the country, or having a bigger appreciation for sleeping in my own bed and not living out of a suitcase. I have been given the opportunity to live with many of my classmates with whom I was not particularly close before a rotation, some of them becoming very close friends. I have also gotten used to being put in new situations, over and over again, and learning to sit with the discomfort and uncertainty until I figured out where I fit.

We often are thrown into a medical team who has been working together for years. We are one of hundreds of medical students with whom they will work. At the beginning, we literally have NO idea what we are doing – where to stand, who to talk to, what our role is, and how we can contribute are all things we figure out along the way. We are transient, albeit important, pieces of their puzzles. When we finally learn what is expected of us, have learned everyone’s names, and feel semi-comfortable with the medical management of that particular specialty, it is time to move on to the next rotation.

This has done multiple things for me. For one, I cannot imagine many situations in which I would feel intimidated or uncomfortable anymore. I am now immune to that, and pretty ready to work with whoever, whenever, on whatever. I have figured out how to live somewhere where I know absolutely no one at all, and how to be okay with entertaining myself, including going out to dinner alone. I have gotten a better idea of how excellent teams work together, in addition to seeing how not-so-excellent teams have an effect on patient care. I have also learned a lot more about what I might be looking for in a residency program. I have worked in cities, rural areas, in large programs, small programs etc., giving me the opportunity to see what works for me.

This was a year of inward exploration and personal growth. Not going to lie – there were definitely some tears and nights of misery along the way. There are a lot of parts of third year that I am ecstatic I will never have to do again. If I could do it all over, though, I’m not sure I would change it. It is definitely the challenging, uncomfortable situations that have strengthened me most as a person and taught me the most about myself, and I am now as prepared as I could be for the inevitable uncomfortable situations to come.

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