I feel like I have started medical school three times already. First there was social orientation, which began with a trip to visit a local historical site. Everyone was nervous and excited and in full-fledged getting-to-know-you mode. Then, of course, there was the first day we had to show up to class and the subsequent four days of academic orientation. More nervousness. Slightly less getting-to-know-you. A small amount of information was conveyed over a long period of time, which was likely a good thing given that all of us were adjusting our schedules to waking up for a morning class. 

Then today, still yawning and surprised to find ourselves awake at 8AM, we had our first actual class. There was a real lecture, a patient interview, a small group session and homework.

We’re not done starting things though. This first class is only three days long, as it turns out, and entirely ungraded. (I’m sure there is a consequence for skipping it entirely, but the pass/fail system hasn’t officially kicked in yet.) Monday we begin biochemistry, when the real chips are down.

All of these overlapping beginnings have left me a bit off-kilter. I feel spread out and unfocused. We’ve been in class all day each day, with dinners and social events in our free time, and only a moment here and there to do the smattering of assigned work. I’ve yet to form a routine, to get a feel for the pattern of day to day life as a medical student. We’re being offered opportunities–clubs, student governments, volunteer work–but I am reluctant to sign up for anything until I know what my time and energy is going to be in the coming months.

I feel like I’m listening to a discordant piece of music. I know there’s a melody in there somewhere, but my brain is stuttering over predicting the next note. Our lecture today abruptly threw a smattering of biochemistry into the discussion and I found myself panicking over my inability to take good notes. I couldn’t piece together what was relevant or important. I forgot to click in a quiz question because I was distracted trying to figure out where we were in the lecture. I have not bought a single book. I am assured that is okay, but I’m apprehensive about reading most of the medical literature on my computer.

Amidst all of this I keep checking in with myself and asking, “Do I feel like a medical student yet? Have I really started medical school yet?” Thus far the answer has been, “Um…sort of?”

Two days from now is our white coat ceremony. Perhaps once I have my official doctoral vestments I will feel like this all is really happening. After all, seeing “Medical Student” on my ID badge filled me excitement, perhaps seeing my name embroidered across a pristine white coat will do the trick.

Maybe I should bring my stethoscope too…just in case.