In an attempt at procrastination recently, I took one of those Buzzfeed quizzes that seem to be so popular. This one was titled, “What Actually is Your Biggest Flaw?”  In response to my answers to random questions about how I would win the Hunger Games and which Disney princess I like the least, the computer algorithm quickly announced that my biggest flaw is that “I have no idea what I’m doing.”

Congratulations, Buzzfeed. You win. You could not have been more correct when talking about this medical student.

Although I am generally confident that I know exactly why I’m pursuing a career in medicine, most days during class I am constantly affronted by how much I still don’t know. I think it’s generally agreed upon that there is a lot to learn in medical school, but you can’t possibly appreciate how much there is to learn until you’re faced with it. I mean, maybe you can, but I sure didn’t. It wasn’t until we covered everything I learned from an entire semester of college genetics in one day – ONE DAY – that I really understood. Medical school is truly best compared to the idea of trying to drink out of a fire hose – you can’t possibly take it all in at once. With the massive amount of new skills and information being thrown at us every day, I think we learn to accept that we will never know it all and never be fully prepared for every situation we encounter in our learning.

Sometimes this makes us awkward and hesitant. I remember the time I first tried the technique of palpation (feeling for lumps and bumps) and how inept I felt about where to place my hands. Although I had prepared by reading about the technique, I had no idea what I was doing. I also think of those moments during a lecture when a professor asks the class a question, and we all sit silently stumped. When pressured to answer, ours is so far off target that it is laughable. Again, we obviously have no idea. But that’s all a part of learning.

This realization can be comforting to a medical student. Throughout my career, I can never expect to have all the answers.  I can hope to have expertise, but I may need to rely on others to help me reach the best answer. Science is always changing, and although we hope to be able to have cures for everything someday, there are still a lot of things that we just don’t understand. When it comes to medical care, there are plenty of things that we don’t yet know.

So the next time someone finds out I am a medical student and comments on how smart I must be, I might just have to tell them about my Buzzfeed quiz results. If there’s anything that I’ve learned as a medical student (and trust me, I’ve learned a lot), it would be that there is still so much that I don’t know. The more I learn every day during class, the more acutely aware I become of that fact. If anything, it motivates me to keep learning and striving to become the best doctor I can be. One day, I hope to be able to say, “Trust me, I know what I’m doing.” Until then, though, I’ve got a lot to learn.


Rachel Donaldson

Rachel Nelson

I’m originally from Brentwood, Tennessee, and I came to South Carolina to attend college at Furman University where I was a music major, outdoor enthusiast and lover of life. I never expected to spend four more years here in Greenville, but I could not be more excited to have the opportunity to stay and be a part of this incredible program at the USC School of Medicine in Greenville! I hope that through this blog you will be able to see, as I did, a glimpse of the inspiring vision and stunning reality of this medical school, and that you will share in our innovative and hands-on journey to becoming tomorrow’s doctors.

Abby Edwards