Final year medical student, Wuraola Obadahun, has recently spent three weeks with us as part of the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management elective.
Here she reflects on how she seized her self-doubt to make important progress in her learning.
What a relief it was to receive an email declaring “congratulations, you’ve passed!’’ each year.
Even so, it wasn’t enough to quell my concerns. I didn’t feel like I knew enough despite the progress I’d made; from being a wide-eyed, impressionable first year to being a more confident and mature final year. There was a sense of relief knowing I had some time left before qualifying, though I knew the day would come when I would be fully responsible and could no longer hide under the canopy of being a medical student.
Inevitably, my final year rolled around. I completed my situational judgement test and prescribing skills assessment which meant I could finally prescribe (yay!). But with finals ahead, it was too soon to celebrate.
Some people dread these exams whilst others eagerly anticipate, and I’m of the latter group. Passing meant freedom – for at least a few weeks – and validation of the past six years. I thought I might finally feel like a real professional.
A few weeks later and I was sitting my last exam. The final day, the final pass, the final step before making that life-changing transition from, ‘Hello, my name is Wuraola and I am a fifth-year medical student’ to ‘Hello my name is Wuraola and I am one of the doctors that will be looking after you today.’ Upon hearing ‘time’s up!’ I breathed a sigh of relief and felt somewhat emotional – it seemed this feeling was echoed across the room. I did a check of my inward state of affairs: did I feel like a doctor? I still felt unsure. Perhaps, that self-affirmation would come at graduation or maybe on my first day at work.
For now, I’m hoping reflection will help me prepare for the years ahead.
A time for reflection
Reflection wasn’t my favourite thing when I started medical school – a lot of my peers would agree – but it is important. How else are we to assess and improve on our current performance? Over the past six years, I have had many successes and failures that have helped propel me.
Here are a few examples of when I’d overcome my self-doubt…
- I was so nervous the first time I was asked to take a patient’s history. It was somewhat laboured as I had to be conscious of my body language, incorporate the “golden minute”, use open and closed questions and summarise. It was difficult translating what I had learnt in class role-play to real-life but the patient was very understanding.
It got easier with time and practice, observation and being observed – like many things in medicine. I recently had my final year placement in general practice where I had my own surgery to see patients, examine them and present back to my supervisor; it was nothing like that very first time. I drew upon past experience, what I’d seen and learnt and really started to lay the foundation of the kind of doctor I wanted to be.
- I also remember the first time I took blood from a patient. I was taught the technique by our amazing clinical skills team but that first time was well, exciting for me (even though it was still under supervision). After gaining consent from the patient, preparing the equipment and positioning myself, I attempted it and when I saw I’d been successful, I was so happy and determined that nothing was going to spoil my day. To me, this was another small step I had made in this journey. I’ve not always been successful since that time but I’ve become more confident in volunteering myself when there are opportunities to practise my clinical skills.
Just as these years at medical school have shaped me as the medical student I am today and laid the foundations of the doctor I will be tomorrow, I look forward to what life as a doctor will hold as I progress and mature through the different stages of training.