When 1 July 2018 came around, I had done the countless paperwork and paid my dues. I finally got the okay to venture into the world of family medicine on my own. It was, and still is, an exciting time, but also a terrifying time. I spent the first few weekends of this monumental year thinking about all the cases I had seen the week prior and second guessing myself about some. I ended up calling several patients to check on how they were doing, and most of them were, first, surprised I called and, second, usually doing better, and if not, there was a plan of what to do next. This put my mind at ease somewhat. The unknown is still scary, but I know it is a part of the growing pains and transition. I’m also happy to say that my weekends are generally getting better.
Another thing I’ve noticed is the many remarks on my age and experience. The remarks I most often get are, “Oh, I thought I would be seeing someone . . . older,” or, “You look like you are in high school!” I have not yet come up with a good response to these remarks, so it usually ends with an awkward laugh and shrug. I think most of the remarks come from genuine surprise, but some can come across as judgmental. One patient even talked to me for a good 10 minutes before he finally asked, “When am I going to see the real doctor?” I could only reply, “Sorry, Mr S., I am who you are seeing today.”
There will come a time when these remarks no longer occur. I’m not sure if I’m looking forward to that or not. Nonetheless, I remind myself that my training has enabled me to help patients, so being the most professional and knowledgeable that I can be is the best response. In the meantime, I may as well take them as a compliment.
The one thing I did not truly come to understand fully until recently is that the learning never stops in medicine. Yes, mentors and teachers told me that they are constantly learning something new. But for some reason, when I was in residency, the end goal seemed to be passing the CCFP. A small part of me thought that if I passed the exam then all the knowledge I needed for family medicine would be there, and, miraculously, between 30 June and 1 July I would become the wise, all-knowing doctor I strived to be. But I woke up on 1 July feeling like the same person I was the day before.
There are still many things I do not know, so I ask for help from colleagues, check resources, and consult specialists. I also look back and realize how much more I do know compared to only several months ago. I am more confident dealing with cases and making decisions. I was hesitant at first to teach medical students and residents because I thought I would not have much knowledge to share, but in reality, I am able to share quite a bit of knowledge and pearls I have gained along the way, despite only having been in practice for a short time.
This period of transition is an exciting time. There are finally no residency requirements to fulfill but we in turn become fully accountable for our patients. To my fellow colleagues who have also recently ventured into practice, let’s continue to learn and grow together. I look forward to what lies ahead in our careers.