One perk of being a senior medical student is that you are comfortable enough to spare some mental bandwidth for creating a more “meta” experience. What I mean is that you have risen out of the survival mode of third year. For me this has meant a slower pace, and one that gives me space to reflect on experiences as they are happening.

One example of this real-time reflection came up on my recent psychiatry rotations. I was doing a lot of shadowing during patient interviews, and as a way to avoid passive observation, I started to sketch the scenes*. While doing so, I noticed that (aside from my rusty drawing skills), it was very easy to capture some of the patients. I realized after a few days that this was almost diagnostic of depressed affect, because patients with depression slow down and are easy to draw! I also started to noticed that amongst the adults, there was a shared expression of underlying frustration, whereas the child patients conveyed a more visible hopelessness. Maybe this was true of my small sample because kids whose depression manifests as annoyance are less likely to end up in the inpatient setting? I don’t know, but I am glad to have the breathing room to reflect on insights like this when they arise.

*Disclaimer: I am sharing a few of the sketches because I feel the likeness is altered enough to honor patient privacy. Anyone you may think you recognize is pure coincidence and does not violate HIPPA.

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