From a Creighton Student's Perspective
September 25, 2011
3rd Year Medical Student
Three months into my third year of medical school, I am slowly realizing the non-medical lessons to be mastered during this transition from lectures to clinical rotations. One of the quickest realizations for my classmates and I was that we now occupy the very bottom of the healthcare totem pole. With that lowly position come the inevitable doses of humility.
Some of those lessons come in the form of admitting and accepting my failures. In spite of my studying and dedication, I am daily asked questions to which I simply don’t know the answer or cannot remember. An unspoken prerequisite to entering medical school is a Type A personality and a touch of perfectionism, both of which make those daily failures harder to swallow.
Another group of lessons are from not receiving credit for something that I have done or accomplished. I liken those times to Jesus’ reference in the Gospel of the tax collectors and prostitutes who turned to Jesus and were able to ignore what other people thought of them. In disregarding others’ perceptions of us we both protect ourselves from insults to our confidence and from dependence on the recognition of others.
During some brighter moments, the humility lessons show up through patients who generously, albeit mistakenly, address me as “Doctor.” Wearing a white coat and acting as a member of the healthcare team garners much greater respect than merely a few months ago when I was a nerdy, anonymous student in a library basement. This transition has demanded that I check my humility regularly to ensure that I am not letting my new identity go to my head.
Defiant, noncompliant, and all around difficult patients are a challenge for me when it comes to regarding others as more important than myself. It’s frustrating to see patients making terrible choices, causing themselves more harm. During those times I need to remember today’s second reading from Philippians, which reminds us how Jesus came down to meet us at our level. He took on our humanity and saw issues from our perspective, warded off human temptations, experienced our vulnerabilities, reasoned with our limited brains, and suffered through bodily pain. I have no doubt that God sees us as “trouble patients” at times. Perhaps a similar approach of putting myself in my patients’ shoes and taking on their problems as if they were my own would help me utilize a more compassionate and understanding approach with those who frustrate me.
Today’s scripture addresses each one of those humility lessons. The readings encourage us to learn to accept and grow through our shortcomings. They command humility when we don’t receive the credit we deserve. They warn against conceitedness in our interactions. Finally, they encourage us to level ourselves with others, appreciating their perspectives to better understand their issues and attain a level of compassion not otherwise possible.
Ultimately, we’re learning to better embody a humility that allows us to put others before ourselves. How much holier would our interactions be if we could consistently and humbly regard others as more important than ourselves?
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