System Overload- Dealing with Emotions in Medical School
February 7, 2014
Now, why did I start off my post today talking about snail neurons? Well, it’s because I’m developing a hypothesis about why medical students become less empathetic during medical school, which I originally discussed here. I believe that myself and my fellow students are actually quite similar to those Aplysia neurons in that we’re being so emotionally stimulated that we’re beginning to experience habituation. During a single day, I go through literally hundreds of emotions in medical school. Here’s a small sample:
I’m excited when I get to perform a task in clinic for the first time, when a classmate asks me for my opinion or when I have an afternoon free post-exam.
I’m frustrated when I struggle with a test or important idea, when a patient is non-compliant with their physician’s medical advice, or when I work hard and that hard work isn’t evident in objective results.
I’m anxious that I am not smart enough to be here, that I’m forgetting an important assignment, or that I’m somehow not learning enough to be a good doctor some day.
I’m sad when patients share stories of their bad medical experiences in the past, when I talk to patients whose symptoms are negatively affecting their lives or when a patient dies.
I’m amazed by the beautiful complexity of the human body, by the amount of caring and compassion that I see, by the power that exists in medicine.
This is just a small sample of the emotions that I feel in a day. I could include others such as being hangry, exhausted, and inspired, but I think you get the point that the list is long. Mostly I feel like feeling all of these emotions is leading to my emotional habituation.
Emily has been a teacher for Kaplan for over six years; she's taught MCAT, ACT, SAT, SAT2 and tutored pretty much every subject under the sun in both the classroom and live online (aka Classroom Anywhere) settings. She's also worked for Kaplan in content development and teacher mentorship roles. Emily is currently a second-year medical student at the University of Colorado and is hoping to go into Pediatrics. She's involved in many campus opportunities such as being a Prospective Student Representative, admissions committee member, CU-UNITE member, and co-president of the Education and Teaching Interest Group. Prior to medical school, Emily got a BA in Biochemistry and Spanish from Lawrence University and a Masters in Public Health- Epidemiology from the University of Minnesota. In her free time, Emily enjoys dancing, baking, playing tennis and exploring her new Colorado home.