Mother Knows Best

My mom was the first one to question my decision to go to medical school. Not because she thought I couldn’t do it, quite the opposite actually. She knew I could, and she knew that if I set my mind to it, I would. No matter what that meant for my mental health, which wasn’t a cost that I used to consider. It has taken me almost a decade to realize, this is just one more thing that my mom was always right about. We are in the midst of an increasing awareness of the importance of mental health, and it has dawned on me, my mom knew this all along. She doesn’t have a computer, and she doesn’t know what a hashtag is. She never needed to see #mentalhealthmatters or #mentalhealthawareness to know what is most important in life. Even now, when I mention the possibility of moonlighting in residency, she has to ask if that’s what would be best for me. I tell her that I’ll have plenty of time, 80 hours a week sounds like a vacation compared to the 24/7 study schedule that medical school makes you feel obligated to keep. She didn’t need the results of a 12-year-long study to know that no good could come of working over 80 hours a week. Now I’m days away from taking my second set of board exams (that’s COMLEX/Level 2 because I’m a DO student, and USMLE/Step 2 because I will be competing for residency programs with MD students). These exams are 8 and 9 hours each, just a fraction of the thousands of hours spent preparing. With everything riding on these scores, I wonder (during my brief study breaks) how to listen to heed my moms advice, and not burnout.

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Kailee Marin

Aloha! My name is Kailee Marin, I'm a DO student in California. I was 15 years old when I decided to go to medical school. I spent three years in Hawaii getting my bachelors, then I came straight to CA to pursue my dream. These three years have been a rollercoaster - the best and worst of my life. I've spent med school listening to, and participating in the complaining of my classmates. I've come to realized that it's all the same. It comes down to the common barriers that current and future doctors face - and it starts in medical school. Moral injury being disguised as burnout so that institutions can pretend they care... But moral injury can't be fixed by wellness Wednesdays, or fitness Fridays. I have realized, to heal moral injury, you have to treat the underlying cause. And there are so. many. causes. So I guess I have a lot to talk about! As an aspiring psychiatrist, I feel compelled to advocate for mental health. This includes the mental health of my colleagues, my future patients, and myself. 

  4 comments for “Mother Knows Best

  1. Pat
    July 23, 2019 at 5:30 pm

    80 hours in a 5-day week leaves 8 hours to sleep per night AND 48 hours completely OFF. Played another way, an 80-hour residency week leaves 88 hours free, which averages to 12.6 hours free PER DAY. So yes, if one only has to spend 80 hours/week being a resident, there will definitely be time to moonlight.

    • Sir Lance-a-lot
      July 23, 2019 at 7:15 pm

      True, Pat, for the kind of resident who has absolutely nothing else to do, no life, no other commitments. For them I would recommend it.

      However, we all see things through the lens of our own personal experiences and if you’ve got a house, have to cut the grass, have to clean the gutters, if you’ve got a wife (and maybe kids, as I did), if you’ve got to fix your car, after your time at the hospital, even with an abbreviated 80-hour schedule, you’d be mad to ask for more punishment, when the Ol’ Lady’s waiting at home to ask why you never put the kids to bed.

      But, yeah, if you’ve got no life and are limited to 80 hours, why not stash away a few extra bucks, and score yourself a few more hours of valuable medical experience?

      • Jerry
        July 29, 2019 at 7:32 am

        As I remember med school and residency over 30 years ago, yes there was no life except for medicine.

  2. Sir Lance-a-lot
    July 23, 2019 at 1:07 pm

    “80 hours a week sounds like a vacation compared to the 24/7 study schedule that medical school makes you feel obligated to keep.”

    I don’t know how to respond to this.

    I guess you’re about 20, which means you have a lot of energy, so none of this is actually hurting you, and may be diverting you from getting into other kinds of trouble, like stealing hubcaps or mainlining fentanyl.

    You may be one of those rare people who never needs to sleep, who has tons of energy and mental acuity, and who will go on to cure cancer. I knew a couple of folks like that in med school, and I’m sure they’re doing great things, in between divorces.

    I will tell you that I pretty much never studied in medical school, did a little reading, spent an hour or two looking over notes before tests, never attended any “study sessions” (except with this one girl, where we always ended up studying… “anatomy”), and didn’t study at all for my boards (I meant to, but, well… you know…). I avoided medical students, hung around bookstores and bars, hiked biked and rollerbladed, and got plenty of sleep.
    I still hated every minute of medical school, but at least I kept my sanity.

    My advice to you: Unless you’re one of those above mentioned exceptional people, you’re headed for a fall. Lighten up, reduce your load, tell every other student there to fuck off, and, most of all, remember: P=MD.

    And call your mother more.

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