Embracing Awkward

I love meeting new people. Usually, I have no trouble striking up a conversation with someone. But there’s no guarantee that I won’t end up with some awkward moments. In fact, these moments are pretty normal, whether they are long pauses where neither of us knows what to say next, or realizing that I may have stepped on some toes or stuck my foot in my mouth. These conversations are like trying to find my things in a cluttered house, in the dark. I trip over a lot of things, sometimes it’s painful, but I’m always very happy when I’ve found what I’m looking for.

But I do love meeting new people. It is certainly one of the reasons the medical field appealed to me. As a doctor, I can have the chance to meet new people every day.

There’s a difference, though. My usual conversations with people outside of medicine include topics like college, sports, hometowns, favorite foods, anything that might reveal a superficial similarity. On the other hand, my conversations with patients go more like this:
1. Hi, my name is Maglin. I already know your name. I also know your birthdate. It’s all in your record.
2. So, what brings you in to see us today? (Add in any other relevant questions.)
3. Now let’s just skip all of the introductions and get to the personal things. How’s your family? I need to know about your sexual activity. Do you feel sad or depressed?

I’m not trying to make light of the seriousness and sensitivity of these questions. They are very important to healthcare providers to be able to serve their patients best, and they are very personal to the patients. For those reasons, these conversations are very different from my introductory conversations, including much more awkwardness.

We learned early in our medical school career that these were questions we would have to address with patients, and we began practicing with standardized patients (actors) immediately. Those first encounters provided my classmates, faculty, and me with numerous memories that will continue to make us laugh and cringe in the future. Any time I have interacted with a physician, they’ve made it look so simple. They know the right ways to ask questions and how to make patients feel comfortable during physical exams. I learned quickly that taking histories and doing physical exams are an art, but I hoped that when I was working with “real” patients it wouldn’t be as awkward.

I have been a third year medical student for just under 2 months, and I can honestly say that the awkwardness that I feared did get better. Of course some of these questions are hard to ask, and some patients are more willing to share than others. Still, those first interactions with our standardized patients were amazing teaching moments. They saw us when we were the most awkward. There will continue to be some awkward moments, but I now feel more natural each time I enter a new patient room.



Maglin Halsey

Maglin Halsey

I’m originally from Knoxville, TN, and found my way to South Carolina four years ago to pursue my undergraduate education at Clemson University. I graduated in May 2012 with a degree in Bioengineering, and I’m thrilled to be spending four more years in this area. I am passionate about USC School of Medicine Greenville’s commitment to community wellness and developing well-rounded doctors. I am excited to share this journey of our charter class with you.


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