How to Make Peace with the Grim Reaper
As medical students, we join the profession with glittering dreams of courageously saving people’s lives and being the hero at the end of the day. But how often is this truly the reality?
Death is not something people doing most degrees or most careers have to think about on a day-to-day basis. It’s not a fight that they continually have to face or a battle that sometimes they will inevitably lose.
Dying is seen as a taboo in our society, something to be whispered about in corners of rooms and not openly discussed. So why then as naïve medical students, having no prior exposure in the majority of cases, are we expected from the word go to be immune to death and its after effects? Even amongst medical professionals, it is often seen as a normality. Something which just happens and that’s the end of it. We are told that eventually, it will no longer faze us, we will be able to look death straight in the eye and no longer shed a tear. But as much as this seems an easy and inviting option, I can’t help question whether that is what I would really want.
We spend years studying trying to arm ourselves with every possible shred of knowledge that might allow us to prolong life. And sometimes the doctor is able to succeed. Or other times death kindly gives us a warning – a chance to develop a plan, for preparations to be made and for goodbyes to be said. But sometimes, death sneaks up and ambushes us when we’re least expecting it. Yes, we need to be pragmatic and develop nerves of steel in times like these. But does that mean we need to lose our ability to hope and to feel?
As a medical student on a ward we of course, and thankfully, will not have the responsibility of life and death. But that doesn’t mean we don’t play our part and it certainly doesn’t mean that it affects us any less. At these times the privilege of being a medical student really shines through. We are no longer just students stood observing, but instead become a friend, a companion to provide comfort, whether to the patient or to the family.
So perhaps not every death should be a battle. Maybe sometimes we should just be able to make peace with what in some cases is inevitable.
Death should never be an easy thing to deal with. And at the end of the day, it is okay to not be okay. Because after all, despite the layers of confidence, knowledge and experience underneath it all we are still human and that is something to never be forgotten.
About the Author
My name is Georgia and I am currently a third year medical student. I am passionate about all things mental health related. I have an Instagram page @girlwithastethoscope which follows my journey through medical school.