Bioethics Blogs

Medical Students Can Handle the Truth; Their Mentors Should be More Open About It

By Shannon Tapia

Medical School is rough.  Fortunately there is a recent movement to make medical education more humane.  The movement to bring humanity, ethics, and love back into the molding of our future physicians is crucial. Personally, I felt my medical school was on the forefront of this push.  Perhaps it was because we had Jesuit priests for attendings and the hospital’s motto of “We also treat the human spirit” filtered into the treatment of students.  Whether it was something about myself or my medical school, I was fortunate to never experience the depression, competitive urges, burnout and isolation that is so prevalent during American medical school years…

But there is an underlying and hidden truth that is never spoken about, or at least wasn’t to me, in medical school.  As students we are warned how tough medical school is and furthermore how absolutely draining residency is.  When we’re in the thick of either in even the most uplifting programs and schools, we are monitored for burnout, offered services to prevent it, and given support in ways students and residents of the 20th century never were. More frequently now, we are prepared for these harsh realities.  But what we’re not told, ever, is that even if and when we make it through medical school and residency/fellowship to attending physicians we may well find it’s not greener on the other side.  We may still first experience burnout when we’re supposed to be summiting our Everest Mountain of medical training. As many mountain climbers will tell you, often the way down from the peak is just as hard if not harder than the climb up.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.