The moment has come. If you think my life is like a real-life soap opera, then get ready, because this week is probably the most eventful one I’ve had first hand. As you may or may not know, depending on if you read my weekly blogs, I got pretty busy/discouraged/whatever you want to call it/these are just excuses and I stopped writing for this blog in the middle of November last year. So, I started re-capping those weeks every Friday starting last Friday. The week before this, I had a good week. I was in my telemedicine rotation for my nutrition internship with my internship partner Gia and I got to express my creative side. That, plus the kind evaluation from the preceptor I had that week was just what I needed to get out of this long grasp of sadness I had been in.
A Word about Gia’s Experiences
That week wasn’t as helpful for Gia, though. She claims she isn’t a creative type (something I think she could be if she’d let herself, but these are digressions). For her, the whole week was just work and another evaluation. She’d been slowly getting more and more discouraged and just done with this internship and life in Puerto Rico. It was in the following week- Thanksgiving week- that she finally had enough.
She told me she was ready to go home and that she didn’t know if she wanted to be a dietitian and that it was too much financial strain to put her family through (the internship is 40 hour work weeks not including travel time or business trips out of town with no pay or transport and extra assignments and projects on top of that, so getting a job is difficult to say the least). She had told me this all before, but something was different. I could tell she was ready to do something about how she felt.
At first, I tried as I always did when someone came to me with similar concerns (trust me, she wasn’t the only person to express such thoughts to me). I asked her to remember why she had started, urged her not to give up halfway through. What I did not do was beg her to stay, and much less to stay for my sake. Since we are internship partners, we go to every rotation together (remember we are both not from Puerto Rico, so everywhere we go is new). We often get assignments that are meant for us to do together (essentially each of do half the work) and well, it’s a big commitment. But I didn’t guilt her into anything. In fact, after my initial attempt to urge her to see the bright side or the benefits of staying, I gave up on her.
I did. I wasn’t going to keep her around by force or guilt. She would just keep feeling awful the rest of the internship year, if she didn’t, on her own account, decide she wanted to stay. So, I gave up. I figured she’d go to the brink and stay… or not. But I was gambling that she’d stay.
The Fallout- Ambush Meeting with Gia and the Director of the Program
Welp, how did that go for me? Gia went to the director and they talked for HOURS. I was in the department of health, as were two other interns that day, since it was Thanksgiving week and that Tuesday and Wednesday were optional for us to work. It was Tuesday and I remember me and the two other interns were chatting in the morning while Gia went into her meeting with the director. Here in Puerto Rico everyone and their grandmother eats lunch at exactly 12 ‘o clock noon, so when the time came the three of us interns working in the office left to take our hour lunch break. We came back at 1pm and still no sign of Gia or the director. Some time after, maybe 20 to 30 minutes, and the director comes to where we interns are and asks if I’ll go with her for a minute. I say yes and follow her to a little balcony type area where I see a guilty looking Gia staring at the table in front of her avoiding my gaze.
The director invites me to sit and then does so herself. After which she says, that if I don’t want to be in this internship that’s fine, but I have to find a way to deal with those feelings because they are affecting my partner who does want to be here.
Yes. I wish I could say I’m making that up for dramatic effect, but it’s what actually happened. I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. I felt blindsided. I glanced at Gia. She was still staring at the table. I couldn’t speak. I don’t remember what happened immediately after; I was just so shocked. Throughout the course of this ambush (I don’t think meeting is the right word for what it was), the director told me at least four separate times that if I wanted to leave the internship or I decided it wasn’t the best option for me that there would be no hard feelings and that it was a perfectly valid option and that she would support me in whatever career choice I made. That it would not reflect badly on me.
Director Told Me I Had Disrespected Her. Twice.
She also told us interns at the orientation stage of the internship back in August that interns are significantly more likely to get kicked out of the program for disrespect than for turning in late assignments, academic struggles or anything else. Then she told me I had disrespected her twice already. WHAT?! I, a meek, quiet, would rather not say anything than say the wrong thing, (arguably) a generally nice person, had disrespected her?! Twice?! That was shock #2!
I asked how I had disrespected her. She told me the first was when I didn’t have an assignment that was due. If you read that blog (link here), you’ll know that that week I had my clinical case study, a clinical rotation, and had barely slept or ate. It was a horrible week. I could have turned in both assignments half done, but I made a choice and decided to focus on the case study that I had to present to the director and my fellow nine interns. So, I didn’t have the grant proposal to turn in that day.
The director had a strong suspicion that I wouldn’t have it, maybe that’s why she went around the room asking each intern to hold up their grant proposal and asking them if they had it. When it was my turn, I simply replied no. I wasn’t about to beg or make excuses, especially not in front of all the other interns. That was apparently disrespect #1. She said she took it as if I was challenging her authority by not turning in something she had assigned with the way I answered.
The second disrespect was when I didn’t know the right answer. This was a month or so after the first incident when another intern was presenting her case study. After her presentation, the director asked the audience of us interns a question. Something about the adverse effects of iron and patients with constipation. I’ll spoil it for you and tell you that the reason iron supplements aren’t recommended to patients with constipation is that iron can cause constipation, so that’d just make the original problem worse. Well, I didn’t know that at the time, so when the director got tired of waiting for someone to answer, she singled me out to answer the question. I did not know the answer. Also, before I used to use critical thinking and apply what I already knew to make educated guesses when I didn’t know something for sure. However, a preceptor had beaten that out of me.
She was my first clinical preceptor. Remember the last month, back in September when I stopped writing for this blog? It was that rotation that completely discouraged me about my chosen career. That preceptor told Gia that she and I had to stop guessing. That’s how she called it. So, I stopped thinking critically. By the time the director asked me that question about iron, I was so defeated and tired and done that I just said, “I don’t know.” That was disrespect #2.
The last memorable comment the director made was about my reaction when I found out I’d failed my case study. That case study I just told y’all I suffered for and didn’t even turn in my grant proposal because I was so focused on working on it? Yep, that’s the one. I presented in front of my nine peers and the director having slept maybe three hours in the past two days only to fail it. When I found out, I didn’t say a thing. I just got the information about what would happen (that I’d have to do another case study and present again) and said nothing. Gia cried. (She also failed hers.) When the director told me I did not have a normal reaction to failing my case study, I wanted to shout “What was I supposed to do? CRY? Like Gia?!”.
Gosh. Even just thinking about this again is getting me fired up. At the moment I felt ambushed. Here I was called into an unforeseen meeting with the director of my internship program and my internship partner being told that my depressive tendencies are dragging my partner down and that I need to learn how to manage that for her sake (not even for my sake!) Gosh. I need a break. I am too angry to write about this.
Alright, so it’s the next day and I see that this post is already over two pages long. You know what that means! SUSPENSE! I’m going to make this a two-part post. If you think this meeting is the exciting part of the week, you aren’t wrong, but something else happens that matches it in drama. Plus… the meeting isn’t over.