I am on the phone and these words sail through to me from the other end: “Have you heard from your brother? He’s been very ill for 3 days”. They would count as some of the saddest words I have heard in recent years.
The demands medical school places on students could indeed be harsh, what with having to clerk patients, study hard for tests and exams, fix tutorials with consultants and residents, and still run after them frantically to sign our log books! And let’s not forget the extracurricular activities, quite the requisite for a wholesome medical school experience. By the way, you reading this, don’t you have a ward round now or something?
As unlikely as it may seem, we tend to forget our families, if our actions (and/or inactions) are anything to go by. Being thus burdened, and our days seasoned with the spice of the inconsistencies of our senior colleagues, we almost forget ‘the sons of whom we are’. Yes! We tend to forget that our blood is someplace else, thinking about us, toiling and praying for us, waiting for us to graduate—waiting to enjoy the full benefits of having a doctor as a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister, a nephew, a niece or even a second cousin. A happy family, they say, is but an earlier heaven. We cannot let work take the place due to family. They were there for us, after all, during our struggles as younger students; and some of us would not be where we are if not for them.
Some come to a hasty conclusion that when we leave medical school, things would get better as we would have more time (for family); it in fact, only gets worse, especially for those who remain in the practice of medicine. The House Officers and Residents are busier, being more directly involved in patient care and satisfaction. We would therefore do well to devise means of keeping that bond with our families. Now.
Let us not forget that our family members are most often our first ‘patients’. They are usually the ones that start by asking what or what not to eat. They then proceed to complain to us about even the slightest rash. Let us not forget them. It could be something as prosaic as calling them— in the moments of respite we can steal now and then—and inquire about their wellbeing. Whatever it is that we do, let it not be with the dullness of routine, but an understanding of the importance of family—one at par with, if not above, that of our degree.
If we do not appreciate them now and take care of them, of their hearts, in our little ways, who would be there to celebrate with us when we get our degree or get to the other checkpoints down the road?
This article was written by Efosa Iyawe, a 400-level medical student at the University of Ibadan.