More than High Yield

By Tamara Hall

“That’s really high yield, focus on that!”

“SUPER high yield.”

“This topic is very high yield…”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard the phrase “high yield” perhaps I wouldn’t be facing such a looming HECS debt upon graduation! I know that people are well-meaning, that we need to focus on what’s considered most vital if we are to get through medical school and not drown in the sheer amount of content it covers. It helps to have a structure to base study around and not lose sight of the forest for the trees. Yet I’ve started to feel quite jaded about the phrase.

Sometimes I’ve told fellow colleagues things I’ve done that day or week, things that have excited and invigorated me and reminded me of why I wanted to do medicine. Things that remind me that I do actually love being part of this field. And more than sometimes their response has been “but that’s not very high yield.”

I often feel guilty when I encounter this attitude. I feel I should be focusing on more “important” things, that maybe I’m wasting my time. That I’m risking my doing well in the course on not so relevant things. That I’m being foolish. That I should have my gaze firmly fixed on the rather large workload of fourth year and rapidly approaching VIA.

People around me in the course are probably aware that I talk quite openly about my history of struggles with mental health, such as low mood and anxiety. I would love to be one of those people who can just gun through, focusing on study, but I’m not. Some days I struggle to get out of bed and get going, knowing another full day of learning is ahead. I fight fatigue near constantly. But it’s these little moments of connection that get me through.

Seeing the smile on a mother’s face as I’ve stayed a bit later to see her baby discharged from NICU. Assisting with a procedure that’s not relevant to anything on our matrix but renews my appreciation for just how incredible the human body really is. Casually chatting with the medical team after handover instead of running straight home to study after a long day. Talking to an elderly patient looking forward to getting home and hearing the joy in their voice about seeing their beloved dog again. I need this to keep going, to keep my drive. Medicine can be both an exhausting and invigorating ride. Equal measures heartwarming and heartbreaking. This is how I cope.

I’m well aware of the greater forest. But sometimes I just want to stand in awe and watch the unfurling leaves of a singular tree. And you know what? I think that’s okay.

Feature image by Alison Wood at Wikimedia Commons.

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