The Fear of Being Uncertain

by Michael An.

The fear of being uncertain is one of the most difficult challenges I have encountered in podiatry school journey thus far.

When I was a student in the clinic, I had the pleasure of being the student doctor for a new patient. This patient had a difficult past causing him to have missed his podiatric examination appointment many times. While gathering information from the patient, discerning symptoms after symptoms became apparent after inquiring about their current illness and past medical history. Physical examination only proved to enforce my differentials that this patient was seriously ill. I did not know for certain, as I did not have the labs, tools, or years of experience to help guide me in the right direction. Due to my uncertainty, I chose to rely on my fellow student doctors and the attending clinician to confirm if this was a medical emergency the patient was experiencing.

My attending contacted an ambulance, while I sat with the patient and explained why the patient needed to go to the emergency room. As the patient was delivered to a nearby emergency department, I worried and thought to myself,

“What if I was wrong about the urgency?”

Given my level of medical knowledge and resources, I could only rely on my own assessment for the patient’s condition with no way to confirm the truth. However, for that patient, the benefit of going to the emergency department would far outweigh the possibility of his condition worsening at home.

I had to trust the system

So as one member of a large healthcare professional team for the patient, I reminded myself that all patients have the right to the continuum of care. I had to trust the system in which the patient would be passed onto another healthcare professional that could evaluate him with the appropriate tests.


medicine’s greatest tenant is to do no harm

After reflecting on that incident, I learned that the true meaning of medicine’s greatest tenant is to do no harm because a patient deserves all the necessary attention.


by Michael An.

School: Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine

The Fear of Being Uncertain

Student, Lifestyle, Clinical experience

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