“Humanism” and “professionalism” in medicine

I just finished my first set of exams for the year, so naturally, I’m slacking off to wax philosophical about my existence in general and my life as a medical student in particular.

“Humanism in medicine” or “humanistic medicine” has become a bit of a buzz phrase in medical education. Likewise, “professionalism” is a word that gets thrown around a lot, at least at my school, in reference to everything from lecture attendance to dress codes. As medical students, we’re expected to speak the appropriate language, to behave in the appropriate way and, above all else, to think the appropriate thoughts: the obese patient isn’t just fat and lazy, but the victim of poor education or cultural priorities. Likewise, the rude patient is more than just a simple jerk. They try very hard to make us empathetic, respectful, patient, considerate, and all manner of other wonderful things that you could hope for your doctor to be. That’s one hell of a lofty goal, and I can’t say that I’m not just the tiniest bit intimidated.

As much as I’d like to think of myself as a somewhat mature person, the truth is that I’m the kind of person that enjoys internet drama, that has trouble getting out of bed before the clock strikes noon, and that gets excited at the prospect of shoving sweets in my mouth. I’ve spent my entire life to date in the ivory tower that is academia and so, have no idea how real people actually live their lives. To think that in one more year, I’ll actually be on the wards in my white coat– it’s a bit of a terrifying thought.