Exhausted and close to burn out, medical student's spirit is renewed

Nicole Nicophene is a third-year medical student at the College of Medicine and is currently on rotation at the UF Eastside Community Practice clinic.

“Beeeeeep! Beeeeeeep!” The alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m. on another weekday. The second year is nearing to a close and burn out is creeping in. Disappointment and bitterness is written all over my face as I wrinkle my brow and jam my finger on the sleep button of my alarm. When is this going to end? For the first time in my life, I do not look forward to waking up in the morning and would much rather lay around in bed under my covers hiding from the grasp of anxiety-provoking medical school.

For once, my desire to rest and just kick back and enjoy life wins out over my curiosity and hunger for knowledge. What happened to the brain that sucked up information like a sponge and craved it like babies crave milk? Five more minutes, I thought. Five minutes came and went. If you don’t get up you’re going to fail. The thought of failing did not inspire me to rise out of bed. With a downcast spirit, I began to be my own cheerleader — like I have done so many times before.

“Come on, Nicole, you can do it. Get up.”

I sprung out of bed preparing for another overwhelming day of eight hours of lecturing and studying the evening away, so I could do over again the next day. Weekends aren’t any better. We use them to attempt to catch up and review, hoping we have not forgotten all we have learned by the next exam.

This summer was the worst as we all had to gather up the motivation and stamina to study for the boards, which tests everything we learned the past two years of medical school.

I walked into the examination room to find a woman in tears, her mother sitting across from her. Concern flashed through my face as I ask, “Are you in pain?” With newfound composure she answered no, but she is concerned about a genital infection. I asked her to explain. She told me that 4 years ago, she had an MRSA skin infection on the mound of her vagina. No one understood how she got this infection as it would not likely infect someone young, healthy and outside of a hospital. The infection was difficult to clear.

Eventually she had to have surgery where they cut through her thigh to remove the infection from within. She was in obvious distress and so anxiety stricken that she may have to go through that whole ordeal again. I efficiently, yet thoroughly, took a history of her lesion and the stage it was in. I told both women I hoped that my attending would be able to comfort them with reassurement that she would not require surgery again.

I left the room to present this patient to my attending. When I told him who the patient was and why she was here, his face changed into instant worry. We went back into the room where the proud patient introduced him to her mother. “Mom, this is Dr. Campbell,” said the patient. Kendall Campbell, M.D., the assistant director of minority affairs for the COM and the adviser for the Student National Medical Association, greeted his patient’s mother and immediately went to work.

I watched as he first explained to her that the knowledge on MRSA has expanded and treatments have improved. He looked at the lesion and smiled. The lesion was in its early stages and he was confident treatment would be quick. He wrote her one prescription for antibiotic and the nurse dressed and covered the lesion with a Band-Aid. Faces changed all across the room.

Relief was in everyone’s eyes. The patient hugged her doctor as her mother thanked us.

Being a third-year student on rotation reminds me of why I wanted to go through medical school in the first place. It is a major responsibility and much is required of those who choose to undertake it.

I’ve really enjoyed my rotations so far. I am finally putting the past two rough years of med school into practice and nothing beats talking to patients and using the skills I’ve learned to determine their problem and to be a part of the solution to making them feel better.

It also helps that Dr. Campbell is one of the most selfless physicians I have ever met and has proved to be a role model for me. It’s the faculty like Dr. Campbell who help us remember why we are here.