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Sunday, June 30, 1985*
I suppose I should have started this diary forty-eight hours ago, before I'd actually started my internship, but I only got this tape recorder today. So now I've actually had a day and part of a night of call. I think I'll start by talking about what I think about being an intern.
The fact that this was going to be starting didn't really hit me until I began packing up my stuff last week. The last couple of months have been the best time of my life. I finished all my medical school requirements back in March, and after that, Karen and I took off for Asia. We traveled around for two months, having a great time and then got back to Boston near the end of May. I loved that time we spent traveling. It gave me time to think about the future. But then a couple of weeks ago, I started getting ready to move, and that's when I really began to think about being an intern. I've had some pretty weird feelings about all this, and I guess I should try to put them into words.
Leaving Boston has been very traumatic for me. Except for the time I spent at college, I've lived around Boston since I was ten years old. It's a great city; I really got to know the place like the back of my hand. I met Karen a couple years ago; she's a fourth-year medical student now, and we lived together this past year. To leave all that, the city, my friends, my girlfriend, our apartment, my family, it's been a really a difficult, dramatic thing. It's going to be a bigadjustment. The only thing that's making it a little easier is that Karen came out with me; she'll be around for another week or so, just until I've had a chance to get myself settled. But after that, she'll be gone, too. I don't know what I'm going to do after that.
I've felt kind of lost since getting to the Bronx. I moved in last Sunday night, and Monday and Tuesday, the first days of orientation, were really stressful. I came home on Tuesday after the lectures on management of emergencies and cardiac arrests and I just fell into Karen's arms and cried for a while. I've never done that before; it kind of scared me. I felt so wound up about these new responsibilities that were looming larger and more threatening every second. I felt terrible. I just thought, "What am I doing here? I can't do this, I'm not good enough to know how to rush in there and save people's lives when they're dying all over the place, when they are bleeding and not breathing."
Something about those lectures scared the shit out of me. It wasn't that I hadn't heard the stuff a million times before; it was the way the lectures were saying it. "Well, you'll want to do this and you'll have to know this, because you'll be the intern." They weren't talking at us, like they did in medical school, they were talking to us. That was scary. I really didn't sleep well those first couple of nights, mostly because there was so much to think about.
I guess one of the things I'm worried about is how much this internship means. When I started medical school, I had great expectations about how much I'd know and how skilled I'd be when I graduated. I thought I was going to be a doctor with a capital "D." Now that I've finished medical school and I've been through all the disillusionment about the capabilities of twentieth-century technological medicine, I feel like I don't even deserve to be called doctor with a small "d." Medical school turned out to be a very negative experience, a real grind for the first two years, sitting in lecture halls day after day, week after week, being bored to death by people who don't seem to care about anything except what's happened in their research lab over the past ten years, and a mixture of wasted time, humiliation, and feeling intimidated the last two years. As a third- and fourth-year medical student, you get to realize how unimportant you are, how things go on whether you're there or not; you're only there to get yelled at by the attendings for doing stupid things, or to get abused by the house staff, who treat you like a slave. You don't really learn how to be a doctor in medical school. So I'm coming into this internship hoping and praying it's everything medical school wasn't. I'm hoping again that when I finish this part of my training, I'll be that doctor with a capital "D," but this time there's more pressure on me: This has got to be it. When I leave here, I've got to be a doctor.
And I'm entering with expectations that this'll be an exciting and interesting time in my life, with memories I'll always cherish. I know it's not going to be easy, and it's not going to be a lot of fun. I'm going to feel lousy a lot. But I hope when I'm all done, I'll be able to look back at these years and be able to say that the time was better spent as an intern than in almost any other...
*Like everything else, the interns' months are different from other people's months. In order to allow continuity of care, the interns switch to new rotations a few days before the calendar month begins.