Failure by Footwear

I recently attended the “White Coat Ceremony” for my niece as she started her first year of medical school. If you’ve never heard of it, don’t feel bad, neither had I and I’m a nurse by background. It’s the formal ceremony that kicks off freshman year for med students. It was started about 20 years ago, and is now done at 95% of medical schools in the country. They have speakers who attempt to be both humorous and inspirational, followed by the parade of incoming students who cross a stage as their names are announced, to don a white coat, shake hands with instructors, then accept a reflex hammer and stethoscope (both of which were kindly donated by local businesses), before exiting stage left to the applause of family and friends.

I did notice something during this ritual, this rite of passage. There was an interesting selection of attire with these young women (some younger than others). There were some wearing very short, tight skirts, some in business professional dresses or skirts and some in business or business casual pants. The footwear varied as well, from sturdy but supportive Doc Martens, to flats, and stilettos. Wait, what? Mini skirts and stilettos at a formal ceremony for medical school? Granted, you can’t, and perhaps shouldn’t, judge the book by it’s cover, but at the same time, get real. These are the students that are the going to be the doctors that take care of you and I.

I had this immediate mental picture of a lovely young woman with long, straight hair flatironed to perfection, walking into a room just after her instructor and student colleagues, wobbling on 4″ stilettos, each step announcing her arrival and subsequent departure through the click of those heels on the tile floors. She misses the first few things the instructor says because she has to take such small steps in those heels, and is always trying to play catch up. At the end of the day she can’t figure out why her whole day is a blur and just runs on and on and on….none of it makes sense, not one patient stands out. Ah, but you see, it’s ok, because she looked cute in those shoes…they made her legs look awesome.

Frankly, when I’m laying on a cart in an emergency room at 2 a.m. clutching my chest, wondering if I’m going to die, that’s what I’m thinking too…”her legs look awesome”….um, not so much.

Maybe the shoes are a predictor of who will actually make it through year 1 of medical school, and I can use that to tell my niece, “don’t worry about 25% of your female classmates, they wore stupid shoes to the white coat ceremony, they’ll never make it. You wore flats, sweetheart, you’ll be fine!”

Oh well, they’ll always have a reflex hammer and stethoscope.


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