The first week of any rotation seems to be the hardest. Fears of not being prepared or forgetting your stethoscope mix with the anxiety of having to ask if there’s a refrigerator where you can put your lunchbox. The coffee stain on your white coat that you completely forgot about in your previous rotation suddenly looks like you showered in your morning caffeine. Do they wear heels at this new office? Should I be wearing heels? Every six weeks, as we change rotations, we get to experience this first week all over again. But this would surely be different, this was going to be the first week of my Pediatrics rotation.
I am the girl who is excited to sit next to the screaming baby on the airplane. I will make funny faces at the kid who keeps popping his head over the booth at the restaurant, and I have a reputation of dancing with the flower girl at every wedding. I have always loved Pediatrics, and I was sure that this first week would be different from the awkward starts of all the rotations before it.
On my first day, I arrived 15 minutes early to a locked door and the lights off. When the rest of the staff arrived 15 minutes later, the sweat stains from waiting outside were already beginning to show. I braved the question of asking where the refrigerator for my lunchbox was and began to transfer every medical tool imaginable from my bag to my white coat pockets. When my preceptor gracefully entered and introduced herself, I had to tilt my chin slightly up to meet her eyes, elevated by her stylish yet sensible black pumps. I knew I should have worn heels. There is no desperation equal to that of finally wrangling a toddler to look in her ears and not being able to visualize the tympanic membrane. Five days, two cases of pneumonia, twelve ear infections, and countless well child visits later, I crumbled on my couch having finished my first week of Pediatrics.
I had been so sure that this first week would be different, that I would float from exam room to exam room without this obligatory anxiety of the first-week blues. Yet it is obligatory, and this first week transition was just like the rest.
I remember sitting in my advisors office at the end of the didactic year, stating that I didn’t feel ready to enter clinicals and take care of other people. She very calmly reminded me that the coming 14 months of rotations were just as much a time of learning as the first 12 months in the classroom. I didn’t need to feel ready yet, but just needed to be open to continuing to learn. I quickly realized this applies even to Pediatrics, where I hoped to be great from the start. There is a reason there are also weeks two through six.
While I continue to dread those first weeks of each new rotation, they are a welcome reminder of the purpose of this year. The lessons gained from each patient encounter now are what will help my patients in the future. I hope to continue to embrace what I don’t know and not be complacent in my knowledge, to learn from those with far more experience than me and not assume interest equals excellence. To realize that I am entering an incredible career where there will often be “first weeks,” but knowing I will be well prepared to care for others––and maybe even one day, to graduate and have a paycheck to buy a mini-fridge for my office so I always know where to put my lunchbox.