Managing Others’ Expectations: Making the Jump from Fourth- to Intern-Year

Ever wonder how being a medical student in the clinical (third and fourth) years is different from being an intern?  Today I heard from a friend who’s made the jump this year, and this is what he had to say:

“I think the strangest transition from being a medical student to an intern is you go from having it be acceptable to not know things to where you’re a doctor who is not supposed to make mistakes but will because your inadequate fund of knowledge doesn’t change much with a diploma but rather through lots and lots of experience.  I’m finishing up my third month of residency.  I’m learning a ton and life gets pretty real when dealing with some of the stressful situations but by God’s grace, I’m doing well.”

This resonates with what I’ve heard others in his situation say: when you become an intern, all of a sudden you’re “the doctor” who’s expected to know things that, just a few months ago, you really weren’t.  The gap between what’s expected and where you are can create a ton of pressure and anxiety.

But it doesn’t have to.  My friend is doing a great job of keeping an even keel about it all, and it has everything to do with his faith.  Being a Christian revolutionizes the way you handle other people’s expectations for you.

As usual, looking at Jesus’ life is instructive here.  Again and again, the crowds, Pharisees, and even his own disciples had misplaced expectations on his life.  Luke mentions, for example, “that others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven” (Luke 11:16).  Instead of trusting Jesus, people kept insisting that Jesus ‘prove himself’ to be the Christ by performing a miracle on demand.

How did he respond?  Later in Luke 11, he said, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”   He thought about their demands, saw that they didn’t match God’s, and was therefore fine with not meeting them.  Because of this, their demands did not wear Jesus down or discourage him.

Although it takes great wisdom to apply this in-the-moment, the principles here are helpful anytime people are placing unreasonable demands on us.  Like Christ, we can step back, see that the expectations differ from God’s, and be at peace even as we fail to live up to what others want.  Although we’ll feel the pressure, it doesn’t have to undo us.

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About Bryan Stoudt

On my personal website (bryanstoudt.com), I help Christians follow Jesus in a noisy, broken world. I also have the privilege of helping Philadelphia's healthcare students and professionals do this as Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA). More information at cmdaphiladelphia.org. On a personal note, I'm fortunate to be married to my wonderful wife, Sharon. Together, we have four fantastic children. In my spare time, I enjoy roasting coffee, running, reading and learning foreign languages.
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