Good Morning

Tamara, Fourth Year Medical StudentMy first awareness is comfort. Mmm…so sleepy as I peek my eyes open a millimeter and note light coming through the window. I suppose the day has begun. I close my eyes again. Where am I today, I wonder. It has always been difficult to organize my thoughts in the mornings, and right now I’m especially featherbrained. Stretching out, I wonder again, where am I? Why am I feeling so remarkably well rested? In true Tamara fashion, I keep my eyes closed as I flap my hands around, searching for my phone. Yes, finally I find the amazing little device that is my phone, my camera, my map, my music player, and most importantly, my alarm clock. I crack my eyes open again, and glance at the time.

7:57 a.m.

My stomach drops as epinephrine floods my body. My alarm was supposed to be set for 6:00 a.m. I never even heard it. Thought rushes fast now in horrifying clarity.  7:57 a.m.  Where am I? I’m in New York City. What am I doing here? I have a residency interview day starting at 8:00 a.m.

It’s 7:58 a.m. as I lunge out of bed, heart pounding, hair askew. I am simultaneously drowsy yet terrified.

It’s 8:01 a.m. and my teeth are brushed, my suit is on, can’t do anything about my hair at this point, and I am tearing down the hotel hallway.  Pounding on the call button for the elevator, I pull out the phone that has failed me.  Searching for the e-mail from the program, I am desperate to find their number and let them know I’m still coming.  Drat, the secretary didn’t list a call-back number in her signature.

It’s 8:04 a.m. and I burst out of the front doors of the hotel, ‘TAXI!!’  One stops immediately, and I have a moment of internal hilarity – I feel just like Carrie Bradshaw, so typically New Yorkean.  I tell the driver the name of the hospital, and am tempted to yell ‘step on it,’ just like in the movies.  I don’t, however, and try to calm myself.  There’s nothing I can do about it now, just breathe. Relax, relax.  The taxi driver is slowly making his way down the streets of Manhattan, and I feel irrationally angry with the pedestrians. Can’t they walk any faster? Don’t they know I’m in a rush? Why is the taxi driver yielding to them so much?  AHHHH!!

I sit in the cab and try to think of a good way to present my tardiness.  Last night I had even staked out the hospital, and noted coffee shops close by where I could get breakfast.  I had planned to get to the local neighborhood at 7:15, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, and stroll over arriving around 7:45. Now look at me, I can’t think of a good explanation other than the totally lame but true “I slept through my alarm.” Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

It’s 8:10 a.m. as I stride rapidly into the hospital, trying to regain my composure.  It’s going to be a good day, get my game face on, let it go.  I walk into the conference room, and no one is there.  My stomach drops even lower if possible.  They’ve already left, how will I find them now?  Feeling like a lost puppy, I turn slowly in a circle. A doctor notices me and introduces herself.  She’s one of the chief residents, and she was waiting for me.  She’ll take me to the room where the residency director is giving orientation.  “It’s no big deal,” she says, trying to reassure me.

It’s 8:13 a.m. and I’m finally sitting with the eight other applicants, listening to the program director. What can you do? Some days go better than others, and I’m grateful I at least woke up on my own before 8:00 a.m. A rueful smile tugs at my lips as I consider the whirlwind start to my day.  Twenty minutes ago I was asleep, lost in senseless dreams. Now I sit in an interview day, hoping for a real dream of residency.

Yes, this nightmare really did happen.  Only once though.  Currently I am out in the world on the interview trail, pounding the pavement, fighting for that next step for which medical school has prepared me – a spot in a residency program.  Have no doubt, this will NEVER happen again, as I will now use my phone alarm placed across the room, the hotel clock, and get a wake up call.  It’s not an experience I will ever care to repeat.

Next installment I’ll outline the interview process.  This time I just wanted to give you a glimpse into my most unique day of the interview season.