Yesterday was my first day of 3rd year clerkship. I'm starting on internal medicine. An orientation called for 7am turned out to be sitting in on morning rounds before being assigned to teams and sent on our merry way. From the first moment, we were thrown in head first. Besides being pimped about current US health economics, I was asked to conduct a focused physical exam (on a real patient!) and to write out my first H&P.
One of the more important lessons from yesterday was about the value in listening to patients and their families. When I was sent back into a room to glean a bit of missed information, the wife pulled me aside with a concerned look on her face. She wanted to reiterate her fears over the prescribed medication. She felt like "the doctor who had just been in" (the attending) hadn't taken the time to listen to her and didn't care what her opinion was. While I was in no authority to give her answers, simply listening seemed to do the trick. I took the time to hear what she was saying, to tell the family that I would find out the answers, to actually inquire about the information from my attending, and then to report back to the family.
Empathy is not really taught in medical school. Taking the time to sit with a family and listen to their concerns without interruption isn't easy in the fast paced and over taxed world of hospital medicine. Humility of saying "I don't know but I will find out" doesn't come easy to us type A professionals. Yet, after a single day of clerkship, I have learned that being empathic, humble, and truly listening will be a huge part of the rest of medical school and needs to continue over my coming career.