Welcome to Medical School: The White Coat Ceremony

Even before our first day, we were given our White Coats. It was almost farcical, and not a little cruel, the notion of giving an overly eager individual an article of clothing that they would have no conceivable reason to wear for two years. In these early days, we would find little use for our White Coats; it would simply take up necessary space in otherwise cramped closets. And why so many pockets? It seemed a mysterious waste of cloth to have so many unoccupied, empty pockets. In a few short years, these same stupefied students would attempt the impossible, and seek to add even more pockets, if only to prevent their reflex hammer from flying out and striking their patients each time they attempted to reach for their stethoscope.

But those days were a far off dream then; the awkward tip-toeing around patients to ensure their comfort during physical exams, the clammy hands fiddling with blood pressure cuffs, the amateur finger pads attempting to appreciate abnormalities. Our finger pads would only contemplate the trackpads of our laptops, to which we would become very attached in our 12 hour days for the next 2 years.

The ceremony was ritualistic, its purpose, presumably, was to serve as a rite of passage of entry into the cult of medicine. Like all ceremonies, it was tediously boring for its participants, intended merely to entertain the attendees with its pomp sans circumstance. After the ceremony, there was the perfunctory picture taking, with what seemed to be an endless line of family members-cum-amateur photographers with professional cameras.

There were the hors d’oeuvres; the endless array of petite bites of food which failed to satiate, only managing to whet the appetite, to prepare the palate for yet greater delights to come. But alas, such a meal would never arrive, and the ceremony would end rather unceremoniously with ever dwindling numbers of proud parents and beaming medical students, as the room was slowly but surely drained of its humanity.

It was the calm before the storm. But following this respite, there would be no reprieve. Instead, we would be thrown headlong into a world we did not understand, cajoled into learning an entirely new, and yet not entirely foreign language, and subsequently, contemplating when and when not to employ it.

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