In time I learned to stride through the waiting room without stopping, and it felt like a small privilege, the tiniest hit that I might actually belong behind the door and one day have my name printed on it.
As a fourth-year, I showed up to a new clinic, but this time as a patient. Instead of cutting through the waiting room, I had to wait. And wait I did, with simmering impatience. Had I become so used to the privilege afforded to me by my white–albeit short–coat? I sighed with some resignation when the nurse finally called my name. I was surprised that my voice sounded higher than normal as I followed her through the doors, and I realized that my frustration with waiting had more to do with nervousness about my appointment than with a sense of injustice that I had been denied an entitlement.
In time, being a patient changed the way I experienced waiting rooms. Rather than being a thoroughfare to pass through as quickly as possible, it became what it was meant to be: a place for . . . waiting. And I think I gained an appreciation of what it means to be a patient.
In retrospect, I realize that the transition from student to physician is gradual, and it began the moment I received my acceptance letter. My goals and visions for my career keep changing, and I have changed as well. Not all of it is bad. I can assert myself with some confidence, examine patients with facility, and gather a history without stammering or blushing.
As I am growing into my professional identity, my relationship to places like the waiting room has shifted. I only hope that my relationship to patients will not.