PERILS OF AN INTERN DOCTOR: Part One

He cannot escape from the fear. The fear of making a fatal mistake; the fear of exposing his own ignorance; the fear of being personally held accountable for the smallest of mistakes and ultimately the fear of turning out to be a bad doctor. The life of a medical intern is hell on earth with glimpses of heavenly beauty: the beauty of delivering a newborn baby in distress, the beauty of repairing God’s anatomy back to functionality and the beauty of life itself.

Almost all medical schools on the entire planet set aside a protracted period of trial after one acquires a medical degree. The ultimate outcome of that process is the validation, mostly by certification, that one is SAFE to be a caretaker of human life. Note the main requirement is SAFETY not COMPETENCE. Competence can essentially be easily faked (for example by cramming textbook paragraphs) but safety is much more measurable and consequently difficult to imitate. Safety is expected to exude from a doctor, it is supposed to be a lifestyle rather than a choice. Ever since the days of Hippocrates (and probably earlier) the doctrine of primum non nocere – first of all do no harm – has been placed as the cardinal requirement for one to be called a medical doctor.

When one graduates from medical school he/she is either timid or over-confident. Those who fall within the interim spectrum can tentatively be termed the ‘born doctors’. These are the young doctors who seem to have everything under control. Nothing seems to faze them; they feel and act well-equipped right from the beginning of their internship. Academic success in medical school is not in itself a guarantee for entry into this esteemed group. If anything good grades in medical school put one at risk of falling into the over-confident group just as much as poor grades demote the other outliers to the fringes of the ‘timid’ category.

There is however a unique set of medical interns that deserves special mention. These are the over-confident, narcissistic but ignorant young doctors who think going to medical school in itself sets them apart from and above their “lesser intelligent” counterparts in all other fields (they do not even recognise the prowess of physicists, mathematicians and the lot). They hold their heads up high, look down upon nurses and other ancillary hospital staff and absolutely loathe counsel or correction from the whole gamut of the “lesser intelligent”. They stubbornly carry this attitude throughout their internship and come out as half-baked but seemingly ‘safe’ doctors.

When the novice doctor sets foot inside a hospital for the first time after the gruelling years as a medical student he/she cannot help but try to identify themselves. The question in their heads is “what kind of doctor am I going to be?”.

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