This entry was a reply to a written request to students to submit a brief paragraph about their experiences while taking The Healer's Art, a course now offered at more than seventy medical schools in the world.
My heart began beating faster. Just six of us, in a small room, masks covering one wall, framing the only window. I was supposed to say something profound, to make some over arching comment on myself, on my past experiences with loss. Push our group deeper into this investigation. This was the first meeting, the first time our group was placed together. I had been journaling, making note of what surprised me, what inspired me, and what moved me throughout the day, something that they recommended. I found myself becoming more present in daily time, searching for little moments to track my existence. We didn't share our journals, but we did share our thoughts, and after two achingly long sessions, I began to feel comfortable, the silence was no longer a call for me to speak but rather a moment for me to think. An opportunity to envision myself extending a similar silence to a patient some day.
Each evening I felt lighter upon leaving. An odd giddiness set in as the group of us tromped up the hill to get back to the main part of town. Perhaps it was the chocolate filled pastries that they pumped into us as soon as we arrived, or the silence that inevitably set in when we were thinking--waiting for someone to begin speaking, or maybe it was the space, the sharing of thoughts, the listening to pain and joy and amazement. Maybe it came from removing ourselves from the general flow of our lives, getting away from the hospital, the library, our apartments; walking into a multi-storied community living space with elderly people looking quizzically at you as you enter. Every time though, walking back through the night, I couldn't stop smiling.
The course was surface level. I tried to think of what I would change, and I think I would have done more trust building activities at the beginning. To get past that initial hump of trust so that we could have optimized our time otherwise, or just added on a few more sessions. We hit on important topics but never jumped into them, did not immerse ourselves in the challenge of these topics, while after each session I felt cleansed after the entire course I felt unsatisfied. - first year medical student Irene Koplinka-Loehr