It's my M3 and I'll cry if I want to

A few years ago, Oregon Health & Science University Ph.D. candidate Katy Van Hook wrote a blog that struck a nerve. She called it Forget baseball, there is DEFINITELY crying in science.

Van Hook, who has since earned her doctorate, was talking about the fact that she was so stressed out by the life of a student at an academic medical center that she occasionally broke down and bawled in her mentor’s office.

I’ve cried in front of my boss, the director of my graduate program … countless friends, several thesis committee members, and a couple qualifying exam committee members if I’m not mistaken.

It was a brave admission, but the response was cathartic. The comments poured in, saying she was not alone:

first year ohsu grad student here: found myself sobbing alone in the bathroom today after a humiliatingly failed experiment, feeling like my life was unraveling before my eyes – your post really goes a long way to reassure me that maybe I’m still on track after all.

Have you, as a med student or grad student, felt the same way?

Well, chances are, you have, says a study (yes, an actual study!) done by Harvard Medical School, Crying: experiences and attitudes of third-year medical students and interns.

Sixty-nine percent of students and 74 percent of interns self-reported crying for reasons related to medicine. For both, the most common cause was “burnout.” … Seventy-three percent of students and 68 percent of interns thought discussion of physicians’ crying was inadequate.

One of the conclusions was: Trainees want more discussions of crying.

So here we go.

Here’s a blog titled First day in the OR, aka crying in public:

Here’s the confession: I totally cried.

I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say that someone with more seniority than myself (not hard to achieve that level of seniority, by the way) made a mistake, and it was blamed on me.  And the scrub nurse was not happy. Not happy at all.

So I cried. I was so upset – I knew how unfair it was, and I knew it hadn’t been my fault, but still – someone was yelling at me, and telling me I had done something wrong.

Another blog:

In med school… wow, it happened a lot. After exams, before exams, just randomly in the locker room. I remember during my surgery clerkship, we were having a workshop on tying knots, and one student was having trouble with her knots and burst into tears. I still remember what she said: “I don’t even feel that sad. I’m just SO TIRED.”

So, go ahead. Let it out. You aren’t alone. Take advantage of the resources offered by the Counseling and Student Development Center. And share some of your own “crying in science” stories in the comments. We’ll all feel better.

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