Strawberries are nice. They smell nice, they taste nice, and they are pleasant to look at. But strawberries are also fragile. Keep them out in the heat for too long and they physically deflate, they change color, they turn bad. They don’t stay fresh forever. They don’t last very long and wilt at the slightest adversity.
The Strawberry Generation is what some of us call the new generation of mass-produced doctors in this country and its not without justification, despite what others who think otherwise. The complaint pages of major newspapers are often filled with letters of frustrations and disgruntlement written by young doctors who could not bear the rigor of working under intense stress and difficulties – young doctors who whine about bad working conditions, lack of rest, unsympathetic superiors, etc.
We have too many strawberries around.
The other day, I did what I have never done before in more than a decade of teaching undergraduate medicine – I walked of my class. I did that after discovering that none of the 10 or more students gathered around me that morning for bedside teaching had done their part of the work – they were supposed to have clerked and examined a patient each prior to the class. Without a good case presentation, there was no point in carrying on with the class.
I expressed my disappointment, mumbled that I had something else to do (I had an entire eard rounds to do and several referrals to see) and not wishing to waste anymore of theirs or my time, I walked through the circle, hearing a few whispered ‘I’m sorry Sir’ and walked away.
I wasn’t happy with what I did and I wasn’t angry, not in the least bit. I am hoping that what I did would push the message home to these young students – that medicine is tough, it’s a life long commitment and it requires a lot of hard work.
I want my students to be made of better stuff and avoid being labelled strawberries when they graduate and start work.