Last Updated on June 26, 2022 by Laura Turner
For a typical medical student shadowing in a clinic for a day, it looks a little something like this: we enter the familiar setting of an outpatient clinic and help as the attending physician sees patient after patient in quick fifteen minute intervals. We also get to see things that patients are not privy to—the virtual stacks of paperwork that wait at the end of each visit, the phone calls for consults, the appropriate orders for the workup of a certain condition in a certain patient. It all seems like a blur. Then we think about the clinical world before we even get to practice as a physician: the years of clinical rotations and especially residency are much more daunting, with their own strict rules, long work hours, and meager pay. Do I have to end up in an office or hospital setting? This is a thought that crept into my mind after hours of clinic observation. What I saw as a pre-medical student is somewhat different than what I experience as a medical student which makes this question far more relevant.
I found myself having a discussion with a close friend. I never thought I would initiate a conversation like this as I had known for a long time that medicine is what I wanted to do. But even for someone like me, this question had started creeping its way into my mind as I was waist deep in studying my board exams. My friend looked up at me and asked what our place was in patients’ lives. She realized that medicine was practiced much differently than she had pictured. She gave us the example of a patient she had seen in the clinic, weeping about the recent serious illness of her child. The physician in the room had done his best to console her, but beyond their brief interaction, she was left to fend for herself. This did not sit well with my friend, who was observing the encounter. The fault was neither with the physician or the patient but rather with the system. It occurred to her that for her to feel like she made a true impact in someone’s life, she needed to extend beyond the borders of conventional medicine today—but this was where she felt trapped. To her, there was no way out of conventionally practiced medicine.
This prompted some extensive Googling on our parts, and paired with our personal experiences, we found that medicine is a beautifully flexible profession. From practicing in clinics to helping farmers in a country halfway around the world, the boundaries were only where we pictured them to be. There are so many opportunities today to make your practice your own. I never realized the breadth of this until I started researching. The key is to find someone who does what you would like to do someday. For me, that means finding someone who has participated in global health programs. For my friend, that means pursuing a Direct Primary Care (or DPC) practice. This is a phenomenon in which healthcare is primarily like a subscription service: an individual pays a monthly fee to have access to a physician anytime he or she may need them. This option has become more attractive in recent years due to constantly evolving healthcare policies dictating the way physicians practice and it even caught my attention. There truly are limitless opportunities to the way you practice. I want to build my practice in a way that fits into my life, and not the other way around. I was incredibly grateful to my friend for having brought up an important point that often can go unaddressed. The key is to make your practice just that: yours.
About the Author
Adelle is a 2nd year medical student who loves to hike, bake chocolate chip cookies, and doodle on the corners of papers.