The Process–poetic thoughts penned by a new doctor

Posted By on April 22, 2011

Not wanting to let this little bit of poetry disappear, I’m archiving it to my blog for both for posterity and pride (I made my daughter Katelyn record her poem – below).stethandmedstaff325 Although I’m not sure who the ultimate reader or listener will be, I’ve got a feeling that those attending medical school or young doctors in their residency will likely relate to ‘The Process.’

For those of us reading this from outside the medical profession, each verse covers a year of study/work after students and new doctors begin to interface regularly with real patients … rather than drudgery of books, labs, cadavers and ‘pretend patients’ (M1 and M2 years are heavily lecture, book and lab learning). Once a medical student passes the stressful Step 1 exam, usually at the end of of their M2 year, most begin a daily interface in hospitals and offices with real patients. I know the poem will remind those who have earned the “white coat” of their hard work, not only during their years of formal schooling, but in spending long hours, barely scraping by, during their three or more years of residency, not to mention a possible fellowship.

  The Process –by Katelyn Corbett (mp3 audio) or text below

The Process

The Third Year Medical Student

Crisp white coat,
Pockets full of neatly folded notes.
Pen light, eye chart, stethoscope.
Stiff, smells of new plastic.
Brain ready, streaming with information from Step 1.
Eager, willing, excited.
Your first pager!

The Fourth Year Medical Student

Dull white-ish coat,
Ink spotted pockets with dog-eared lecture notes from three months ago.
Pen light dimming, need new battery.
What happened to that eye chart?
Stethoscope hangs comfortably, smells of many patients, not enough disinfectant.
Adjusted, tainted, ready.
Why don’t they page me!

The Intern

Longer white coat, just more to get dirty.
Pockets filled to maximum capacity with
Formulas, diagnoses, a student’s eval here,
A short presentation on hypertension there.
Pen light broken, no batteries.
What eye chart? The nurses do that.
Only a stethoscope, hangs limp and used
Run ragged, brain filled, but never knowing enough.
Stop beeping!

The Resident

The white coat is lighter,
Only a few staple resources plus your brain.
Pen light disappeared, stethoscope an extension of self.
That one patient, seemed cut and dry,
But wasn’t …
A little oversight, a simple mistake,
Fortunately the attending was there.
Beep … Beep … Sigh …

The Attending

The white coat is dry-cleaned, crisp, heavier than remembered,
Maybe the weight of responsibility?
A new pen light, new batteries,
A lesson learned from residency.
Tried and true stethoscope, comforting, like a child’s teddy bear.
Teacher, student, learning, always learning.
Beep-beep … Beep-beep … Check pager … it’s someone else’s pager.


Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.