Just about every network on television features a show about young doctors and medical students in training. How realistic are they? What's the experience really like?
The University of Michigan Medical School recently launched the "Dose of Reality" blogs, short for Web log, to help answer that question. The site enables 12 U-M medical students to blog, sharing with others their thoughts, feelings, triumphs and frustrations. The blogs also clue prospective medical students into what it's like to attend the U-M Medical School, one of the best in the country.
Ben Bryner is a third-year medical student. When he was 15, Bryner spent some time with a doctor in northern Mexico, and witnessed the great need a free clinic served in the local population.
"That's when I knew that being a doctor was right for me," he says.
The first two years of medical school are typically spent hitting the books, so this is the first year that Bryner has had significant time with patients. This year he rotates through most of the medical specialties as part of his training.
"When you're on a rotation like surgery or internal medicine, you're there all night and part of the next day. You may be at the hospital one or both days of the weekend from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m.," he says. "It's tough, but I'm learning a lot and it's been a great experience so far."
Bryner became involved in the school's student blog project when he was invited to submit an essay on why he'd like to post his thoughts and observations on the student experience. Bryner says he enjoys storytelling, and writing a blog also would let him provide information to prospective students on what it is like to go to the U-M Medical School.
"When I write my blog posts, I tend to write a lot about how medical students think, or are supposed to think, or how their thinking is supposed to change," Bryner says. "The thing I hope shines through is that being a third year student is simultaneously more difficult and rewarding, and more exciting and exhausting, than I would have ever imagined."
Janani Krishnaswasmi also is a third-year medical student and blogger. She was immersed in a career in investment banking when she realized her true passion lay in medicine. Krishnaswasmi says there is no simple way to describe what it's like to be a medical student, and admits it's hard to fathom how she will ever absorb all the information she needs to learn.
"It's a lot of work, stress and pressure, but this year is definitely the best year of medical school," she says.
Her current rotation in the hospital, begins at 5:30 a.m. On a typical day, Krishnaswasmi visits with her patients to make sure they are doing well. Afterward, the whole team, which consists of an attending physician, residents and interns, gets together as a group and she presents her findings. For the rest of the day, she helps the interns and residents with patients, getting home anytime between 6:30 and 10 p.m.
"It's a transformation, being in medical school. It allows you to be good at studying and memorizing, but it also allows you to be more human, to really develop the compassion and sensitivity to deal with people," she says.
Krishnaswasmi got involved with blogging because she loves to write. She admits it also lets her blow off some steam.
"And I think the blog is a really great resource for prospective medical students. The bloggers' experiences vary, but I think that's good, and I enjoy being a part of it."
And how does the life of a doctor-in-training stack up to the television shows?
Bryner thinks the medical shows are not terribly accurate.
"There's a little bit of truth to them, but a lot is made up. In real life, there's a lot of studying, reading and talking on the telephone, but the shows do capture some of the more dramatic moments, the ones that make you happy to be involved in medicine."