Arts and Poetry, Featured, Mental Health and Wellness, When the Coat Comes Off
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Chief Complaint: 27-Year-Old Female MS-2 Reports Feeling “Hollow”

Chief complaint: 27 year old female second year medical student (MS-2) reports feeling “hollow”:

like the diaphysis of a long bone, marrow decomposed.

history of present illness (subjective):
she states three weeks ago, (or was it months)
she started feeling tired
she states symptoms begin on waking and persist indefinitely (unless she dreams).
moderating factors include exercise, but she notes it is not helping as much as it used to.

to get through it i
wake up get up do not think just go.
do not slow.
the boulder is gray and cumbersome.
i try to push it up the hill, again.
right foot. left foot.

of note, physicians are burning out at alarming rates.
i feel the slow curdle of my spent wick, wax dribbling down the sides, ruining the tablecloth.
there are reports of this occurring as early as
the preclinical years of medical school.
i suspect she is being melodramatic.
i recommend
adequate sleep and self care.

do i really want to know?
doc tells me to wake up get up do not think just go.
right foot. left foot.
maybe it is normal, this feeling hollow.

i got through it. she will too.

This poem is about how I felt during especially full weeks of medical school being weighed down by the expectations of this field and my expectations of myself. Some days school is a most welcome excursion from my ruminations over the climate catastrophe and the death toll of patients who, for reasons I do not understand, continue to refuse to be vaccinated. Some days, school feels as heavy as all of this particularly when I allow myself to wonder how important it is that I know each aspect of a disease drill when it feels like the problems that need to be solved right now are a million miles away from the work I churn out at my desk from 4:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day.

Image credit: Custom image provided by the author for this Mosaic in Medicine piece.

Olivia Dhaliwal Olivia Dhaliwal (1 Posts)

Medical Student Contributing Writer, Editor

Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

Olivia is a student at Case Western in Cleveland, OH. Born and raised in Erie, PA (and sort of California, too) she has lived in eight different states since starting college and took a roundabout journey to medicine. She hopes to pursue rural family medicine, with a focus on integrative and preventative medicine. When not studying, she is likely to be found working out at CrossFit, practicing yoga, reading fiction, writing poetry, spending time outside with her rescue pitbull Baylor, or traveling to her next adventure.