Always more to learn

by Lorien E. Menhennett

What we know is less than what we don’t know.

That’s a quote from one of our infectious disease lecturers. She was talking about viruses. But her words describe so many vantage points, including my own right now.

I’m done sitting in a classroom. Not just for the semester, but for medical school. Next semester, after I take my board exam, I go straight to the hospital to start applying all I’ve learned. And to learn so much more.

It’s been a jam-packed three semesters. I absorbed more information than I thought possible when this all began. Attending medical school is compared to drinking from a fire hose. It’s an apt analogy. What we endure is intense.

Even so, what I’ve got now is book knowledge. A tangle of facts. (And even that needs a great deal of solidifying during my five weeks of studying for boards.) Having that knowledge at my fingertips, and understanding how to use it in clinical practice — those are skills I don’t yet have. And while I know the steps of a physical exam, interpreting the findings, what they mean in the context of my patient, is something I need to practice too. I also need to listen to hundreds of hearts and lungs and bowels so I can learn what normal is — and what abnormal is. Right now, it’s all a bit of a jumble.

I have learned so, so much since starting medical school in August of 2015. But I have more to learn in the next two and a half years while I’m in the hospital. Then more yet in residency. And even more once I’m an attending physician. In medicine, the learning and growing never stop. That’s intimidating sometimes, but it’s also exciting. It keeps things interesting.

Right now though, I’m ready for my two-week winter vacation. All this learning is hard work.