You have committed to this difficult and amazing profession because you care and want to make a difference. There is a way to do it well and stay well yourself.
Lisa Uherick, MD, Director of Well-Being for Emergency Services, Carilion Clinic
Dear Medical Student,
I love you. I see your beautiful heart and remarkable character. I learn from your beginners’ mindset and soak up your optimism and energy. At times, I’ve watched the process of learning medicine dim your spark and drain your spirit. I’m perpetually worried about you and your colleagues. For all of these reasons, I’d like to make a pact.
Let’s check on each other more! If you hear that I had a hard case, please send me a text to see if I’m alright. If I seem distant and checked out, I may not be okay. Please don’t leave me alone. Especially if I make a mistake: I implore you to call and check on me. To err is human. Human error is unavoidable throughout your entire career, but especially when your learning curve is so steep.
The risk of suicide goes up significantly after a medical error, as nearly universal feelings of sadness, shame, and isolation surface. When asked, the overwhelming majority of physicians want the support of a peer over anyone else during this time. It may feel uncomfortable, but your fellow student wants you to check on them. Remember, we are very good at seeming like we are fine. When in doubt, go ahead and ask. Because of our strength and desire for perfection, your peers may not know when you are struggling. It will be hard, but you can -- and should -- ask for the support of a peer when you need it. Before overthinking it, just text “I could use a friend. Can you talk?” Five, four, three, two, one, SEND.
You have committed to this difficult and amazing profession because you care and want to make a difference. There is a way to do it well and stay well yourself. The key lies in taking care of ourselves and each other along the way.
You will never walk alone,
Lisa Uherick, MD
Lisa Uherick is a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, Virginia. In addition to caring for and about children, she also has a passion for her colleagues in healthcare and is the Director of Well-Being for Emergency Services. She is an associate professor at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.
The views and opinions expressed in this collection are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Association of American Medical Colleges.