I Think of It
By Rhonda Watkins
I think of it now, the first time I performed, alone, a physical exam on a patient
Fresh out of the basic science years of medical school
equipped only with a textbook's reflection of the human in front of me
I thought of it then as a daunting task –
where to start, what to use, what to say if
God forbid, the patient questioned my findings.
I think of it now as a window into a stranger's life:
reviews of the necessary pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that make a life,
a reflection of their genetics, their environment,
and their investment, or lack thereof, in themselves.
I thought of it then as data collection
to be regurgitated to my attending on command.
I think of it now as an honor, a privilege,
bestowed to me in a profession of service,
an opportunity to effect change in a person's life.
I thought of it then as a series of inspections, palpations and percussions,
to be performed in a very short space of time.
I think of it now as the cornerstone of any diagnosis I will make as a future physician.
In what seems like a moment, I must differentiate
between very sick and requiring immediate attention from sick but will be fine.
I thought of it then as a test of my recall
from the many physical exam videos we watched in class.
I think of it now as words on the pages of my life
written by my patients' pains, pressures and pictures.
I thought of it then as an impossible mountain of responsibility
to be conquered only with time and experience.