Fifth year fear

My friend often jokes that it takes her a whole year to come to terms with her age and just as she has accepted it. Bam!  Another birthday and the cycle repeat itself.

The same can be said as my years at medical school. Just as I got use to being a 4th year, I had to move on.

When I was in 4th year I use to look up to the people in the years above me and think that all those people were amazing. They had made it. They had succeeded.

Now I am in my final year of medical school I can see people doing that to me.

“This is my friend Salma, she’s a 5th year.”

This was how someone in the years below me introduced me to their friends. I could see the look in their eyes. That same “wow, you’re amazing” that I looked at the old 5th years with. But the thing is, I don’t feel “amazing” and I definitely do not “know it all”. It will take many hours of revision to get anywhere near the level that I need to be for my final year exams. And by the time I am finally comfortable being a 5th year I will have to move on to being an F1. Where I will again start at the bottom.

This isn’t a nice feeling.

No one likes to feel like they don’t know what they’re doing, but the truth is in medicine, there is just that much to cover, you are never going to be an expert on everything, even as a consultant!

My point is. It’s OK not to know everything. Yes you have to know how to treat someone with a myocardial infarction but no you don’t need to know it all!

During my first few weeks as a 5th year, I was paralysed by this idea of what being a 5th year meant. I expected myself to know all the answers and be slick with all my examinations even though it had been a while since I had done them all. I didn’t want to see any patients because I didn’t know enough yet.

Too many days into my placement and I hadn’t seen a single patient. I finally pulled myself together and took the dive. My history was all over the place and I forgot to check for hepatomegaly and splenomegaly and my reflexes needed (and still do) a lot of practice. When I finished I asked the patient for some feedback. She didn’t notice my jumbled history and examination. She told me “you have a lovely bedside manner”.

My point of writing this is to say that it is OK to be a beginner. Even that scary consultant missed the odd murmur or two back in their day. So give yourself a break and allow yourself to learn and re-learn.51mbx2bck0al


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