So I'll just be sharing an experience of mine that happened after few months of entering the medical field. So, for the first month (1st year student here), we had this so called 'foundation course'. It's basically there to 'teach' us characteristics a doctor should possess. They kept on preaching about how you should be 'empathetic' with every patient you encounter and also maintain your so called 'professionalism'. Now, I personally held the belief that, empathy is something that can't really be taught, you need to develop it by yourself, because as I could see, not a single student really cared about listening to what the teachers had to say. Sure, they all could define empathy but I don't know how many of them actually practiced it in real life.
So, after a month our regular syllabus had started and after the college hours, I was going back to my room, still wearing the white apron that we obviously wear to be reminded of our responsibility. I was hungry, so I stopped near a local food stall to eat and I was eating, moments later, a girl right next to me collapsed on the ground. I didn't notice it immediately, because it all seemed eerily natural to me, it looked as if she intentionally lied(fell) down on the ground. It took me a moment to process what was happening because I didn't really that she had collapsed and was in urgent need of help. Her eyes were open as she collapsed and she was looking straight up as if fully aware. She tried to sit upright and fell again and I kept watching. I was wondering wtf is going on and then I realized damn she needs help. I shouted at her asking what's wrong but there wasn't any reason. Now I obviously wanted to shake her shoulder in order to get some sort of response but something stopped me from doing so. It was the feeling that she's of the opposite gender and in the country where I live, since childhood, it's drilled in our head, that we shouldn't ever maintain intimate or even close contact with the opposite gender. So I didn't do what I was supposed to but instead kept asking, I know I should have called an ambulance but I didn't even do that. It was all so new to me, something that you aren't really taught in med school. Even the food stall owner and nearby people were confused and no one really came to help her, until few girls from another side saw it and came rushing to her aid. They asked us why didn't any of us bothered to help her, and a guy replied, "well she's a lady, we couldn't possibly touch her…" I was later scolded by another group of people for being an onlooker despite being a medical student. That time I really wondered, what kind of judgement I should have made, but then at that moment I decided to take her to the civil hospital and take responsibility for her. I wasn't even feeling human(slight exaggeration) at the moment if you know what I mean. Later on, I called her family and informed them about her situation, completed the formalities and I was told to go.
I know I was at major fault in all this but really it made me realize that you won't really help people if you don't want to, whatever the reason may be, let it be social constraints or conforming to society's rules. There are many layers to empathy but to actually 'feel' it and act on it with a proper judgement, that's completely voluntary. Hopefully, if something similar like this happens in the future, then maybe I'll be able to respond better and in a more appropriate way. Some things you can only learn by being the 'fool' or by failing or experiences.
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