What it takes

June Duong is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at Queen's University

 

Author’s note: This is a satire inspired by on Twitter, which occurred on October 27, 2018 in response to policies regarding the use of menstrual hygiene products during the MCCQEII. All characters in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Dr. John Doe woke up on Saturday morning and cooked himself a large breakfast. It was doomsday, for he would be doing his exam this weekend. He was going to be out all day. He did not know whether he would be doing the exam in the morning or in the afternoon — not that it mattered in the end, since he would be sequestered for the rest of the time anyway. As far as the instructions he’s been provided with, all they said was, “Do not bring food. A light snack will be provided depending on your examination schedule.” Dr. Doe, with his three degrees, translated this statement into a big, fat maybe. You may get food so that you can focus on your exam, or you may have an empty stomach gnawing away at itself.

Thankfully, exam-takers would be allowed access to the restrooms, as well as their food and medications, so long as they had obtained written permission beforehand. Unfortunately, Dr. Doe’s application to use the washroom due to his self-diagnosed small bladder was not good enough. They needed documented proof…something akin to a doctor’s note for a sick day, he presumed. Anyone should be able to go a full day without needing to void, the policy seems to suggest. Dr. Doe resolved to only drink three sips of water that day. Between not eating and not drinking, Dr. Doe then began to worry about fainting during the exam. This almost set off a panic attack, so he went to his bathroom to shower.

As he undressed to bathe, he noticed something on his underwear that then guaranteed a full-blown panic attack. His period had come. Dr. Doe, a transgender male, knew his menstrual cycle well enough to know that his first days were the heaviest. Double-protection, change-every-other-hour kind of heavy. He remembered vague instructions about this: “You may bring feminine hygiene products to the exam. Please inform exam staff upon registration; instructions will be provided onsite. Please note that test accommodations are not required for feminine hygiene products.” Again, Dr. Doe translated this to a big, fat maybe. He thought to himself, “You may be allowed to use your menstrual hygiene products after you’ve asked the exam staff. At which point you will have to explain that you’re a transgender man who still gets periods. And, at which point, they can still tell you no.” And so, he decided to forgo the “feminine” hygiene products and diapered up. After all, this was what it took to be a doctor, right? The hustle. The grind. The “put your head down and never complain, you can take whatever comes your way” mentality. And — bonus! Now, if he really needed to pee, he could.

***

After he left his last station, he breathed a huge sigh of relief. He had made it through the first day. He went back to the Room to be sequestered, where thankfully, the trainees had been blessed with some food. He began eating his ration when he noticed someone staring at his behind. Of course, he had leaked. Without prior washroom usage approval, and not wanting to have that dehumanizing conversation with staff, he decided to just sit down. It was all for the better; having not drank anything to avoid needing to pee, he was beginning to feel lightheaded. Thankfully, one minute later, the proctors lined everyone up like cattle to go for their one allotted washroom break. Dr. Doe stuffed wads of one-ply toilet paper in his diaper before returning to the Room.

He picked up a newspaper on the chair next to him and read print for the first time in ages. He began doing the crossword, which was quickly stopped because writing was not allowed. Dr. Doe still had two hours to kill. There was one deck of cards to share between the candidates. Considering you couldn’t talk to anyone, even though you were done the exam, all you could realistically do was play solitaire. Who even knew how to set up solitaire by hand? Annoyed, Dr. Doe turned to the TV which was set to a channel he had never heard of. It was playing Rocky V. He groaned in exasperation, which drew a stern look from one of the proctors.

Having spent his entire day in a diaper, dying from thirst, and stressed about a million things having to do with the logistics of the exam rather than the exam itself, Dr. Doe decided not to bother asking for the channel to be changed. Whatever courage and dignity he’d entered the exam with had been whittled away. Finally, the movie finished and — right on cue — the proctors opened the door. Timid, none of the candidates got up to leave. They weren’t sure if it was in their rights anymore. None of them had any will left. Looking out a window for the first time since the day started, the outside world suddenly seemed so big. Too big. And so, they all decided to stay there until the Sunday exam. After all, it was beginning to feel like home.

“This is what it means to be a doctor. I’ve finally proven I’m tough enough for this profession. I’ve finally made it,” Dr. Doe thought to himself as he drifted off into a restless sleep filled with nightmares about what the next day would bring.