One of the questions that I get asked the most is “why did you go into Emergency Medicine?”. You probably wouldn’t believe it, but it kind of fell into my lap! Really! I know what you’re thinking… life in the ER has got to be one of the most hectic experiences out there! How could I just fall into it? Be patient with me and I’ll do my best to go back through my process and explain a little better!
The easy part is this: I always knew I wanted to be a Doctor. What type of doctor, specifically, is a different story altogether! I really had no clue! It’s actually a little comical how often my mind would flip back and forth about it. On a random day, I’d decide to be a pediatrician. Then a few days later, it would be sports medicine… then a total reversal as I decided I wanted to be an OB/GYN! I literally went through the whole spectrum, but not once did Emergency Medicine pop up. Never!
So… in high school, we had a mentorship program. Through it, students would get access to a network of professionals in different fields so they could make a connection and gain some insight into potential fields of interest. It was here that I was introduced to Dr. Brigitte Alexander, who would take me under her wing and provide my first real exposure to the world of medicine! Get this… she was an Emergency Medicine Physician! I learned a lot under her mentorship and she continued to inspire me long after our encounters in high school. She’s someone who I will be forever grateful for!
But even still, EM was still the furthest choice in my mind even as I started medical school!
For what it’s worth I did not know until late in the game that I was going to choose EM! I struggled in my first two years of medical school with the course load, and I worked hard not to fail. I thought I was going to be an OB/GYN because the more I learned about women’s health and reproductive medicine; the more I fell in love with the field!
But then came the dreaded USMLE Step One and guess what happened? I did HORRIBLE (reminiscent of my poor MCAT scores), and I remember thinking “well, this will not help me get into any great residency.” But I didn’t give up, and I went into my 2nd half of medical school believing that I could let my bedside manner help me and that I could improve on the USMLE Step 2!
And you know what? I did exceptionally well on my clinical rotations! I began to believe that I could be a fantastic Clinician despite my troubles with test taking!! I enjoyed all my rotations (minus surgery) and could not single out ONE that I loved more than the others. So you know what I did? I applied to THREE specialties in my fourth year!
I applied to OB/GYN, Internal Medicine, and Emergency Medicine.
And I had yet to do an EM rotation when I applied, but I figured it took the best of all the rotations and compiled it into one specialty; so it must be good!
So how did I decide? I listened to my gut instincts.
You see I remember around application time starting to feel a little unsettled within. In the beginning, I was about 80% sure I would do OB/GYN. I mean that is what I had thought I would do for most of medical school, so how could I change my mind at the end? So I did an away rotation in OB/GYN early in my 4th year and went to a program where the residents were happy! However, all of a sudden I started to feel very anxious about my future – at some points even very afraid of what my life would look like in the future. In retrospect, those feelings were my instincts, my inner self, talking to me and guiding me to stay far away OB/Gyn. You see that rotation taught me that I didn’t want to become an OB/GYN only because I just could not see myself as a surgeon and they had long hours and a quality of life that I did not think would serve me, so I withdrew all my applications. And the MOMENT I officially withdrew I suddenly felt a sense of relief wash over me, and I knew I made the right decision.
I also did not like my 4th-year Internal Medicine rotation that was early on (thankfully), and so I withdrew my Medicine applications for that specialty too!
So what was left? Emergency medicine! And guess what… BEST. DECISION. EVER!
I applied broadly and did my EM rotation later than most and trusted that God was in control and this was the path! And I loved it!
I loved the variety, and I loved that you never knew what was going to walk through the door. I liked that it was shift work and that you were done at the end of your shift. There were no patients to call, and you only took care of those within your shift! I learned about the flexibility in scheduling that was possible, and that was a huge plus for me! And most importantly, I also loved the physicians who chose EM – they all seemed to have interests outside of medicine, and that was key for me!
One thing I promised myself when I started medical school was that I would never let medicine take over my life! And I have kept that promise! My path to Emergency Medicine was not typical but then again my path to medicine is atypical, and it fits me.
So the moral of the story is that sometimes you may have NO clue what you are going to do but you have to TRUST your instincts. Listen to when you are excited and listen to when you feel fear and trepidation. I know many of us want CERTAINTY that we are doing the right things but sometimes we won’t have that definiteness. Those are the times my friend when we will have to step out in Faith!