On gentle hazing (or Inpatient Medicine: a post-mortem)

This past week was both more tolerable and more miserable than the weeks past. I had a partner in crime, another fourth year itching to leave in the afternoons. Since we did not leave early, I pushed the boundaries in my own way.

I enjoyed extended lunches. We had no expected clinical responsibilities from the end of rounds at 12noon until the chief resident decided to gather us together at 330p. The dead time irritated me. I thought about driving home to play with a baby and walk a dog. Too much time on the road and even tougher to return to the hospital for a second time in a day.

So, I went to the gym. I have been more faithful to my movement practice over the past week than the previous three months since the arrival of Joonsu. It felt good. I didn’t lift too heavy, I just moved freely. Big broad jumps, playing with kettlebells, running on the treadmill. Things I cannot easily do at home, and thus haven’t in the past 12+wks. I’m feeling more myself.

And once we meet the chief resident at 330p, we presented a topic or two and then he’d send us home. I always resented that large gap: instead of dismissing us outright at noon, I remained tethered to the hospital until 4p and arrived home as the sun set.

I passed through stages.

Initially, I accepted the disregard of my time as part of the realities of undergraduate medical education. Residents are busy and they need to take care of patients before they can send the medical students home.

Then, I began to resent the collar. The hours sitting and waiting in the student lounge until the appointed time chafed at my neck with irritation and annoyance. I kept updating myself on the patients I followed, waiting for any new lab result or imaging. Watching other students filter into the lounge and head home.

I transitioned to anger. I couldn’t believe how insensitive the resident! He has a son, weeks older than Joon. Doesn’t he realize that he is keeping me from quality time with my son? What a terrible person, to deny a new father precious daylight hours.

With the medicine rotation behind me, I feel like I can leave the emotional response behind me and recognize that gap for what it is: gentle hazing.

The resident just wanted to fuck with me and this was a pretty mild way of doing so. He didn’t not like me. Actually, all of the residents were quite pleasant with me as I left for the final afternoon, wishing me well on the upcoming match.

He just wanted to mess with me. And if that’s the most direct form of medical student mistreatment that I experience in my whole four years, I think I can call myself quite lucky. Dismissal at the end of my appointed hospital rotation instead of after morning rounds? How cruel! I’ve heard of much worse and far more punishing medicine rotations at other hospitals. He didn’t want me to go home early because that simply would be too easy.

Early on, I established with him that I went through OCS with the USMC. I hoped to build rapport as he served as an officer in the military prior to entering medical school. I thought that this shared cultural history combined with our young children would bond us together and convince him to dismiss me early. Instead, I think he decided I could handle some mild harassment without getting too ruffled over the experience.

Soon I will not longer pay for the honor of waiting around in the hospital. I will be financially compensated for my time and have a function and a position. But I won’t be able to sneak off to the gym. No more hopes for early dismissal. A trade.

My time at the bottom of the medical hierarchy is coming to an end. Soon, I will need to consider, ‘What kind of resident am I?’

Will I gently haze those nervous medical students? Watch them squirm under my heel, like a patient reacting to noxious stimuli. Would I enjoy this or call this a necessary function to toughen them up for intern year? I’ve dabbled in receiving and doling out the haze. I do believe that stage is behind me.

Will I send them home early without any requirement? Shouldn’t I ensure their education? What if their presentations interfere with my ability to document and care for patients? I’ll be the one with my name on the orders, and what if I miss something because I’m listening to a third year ramble about metabolic acidosis?

I know that I will err on the side of gentleness and kindness. The process of undergraduate medical education is terrible enough as it is, without introducing resident sadism on top. We’ll see how much intern year changes me, and if I keep to this philosophy as I transition from MS4 to PGY-4.

Long Form Sundays

On Death Podcast

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