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.




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