* * Anonymous Doc

Sunday, August 9, 2009

I scrolled through the posts I've been writing lately. This blog's not a very good advertisement for medical school. Maybe it's just because I (finally) got a full night's sleep last night, after working just 4 hours yesterday morning and then a day off today, but things are feeling just a little bit better. Although maybe I'm just deluding myself in the other direction.

What's the goal, in the end? I don't just mean about being a doctor, I mean about life, about happiness, about fulfillment? Not very long ago, I thought, okay, once medical school is over and I'm getting paid, I'm not a student anymore, then it'll be good, then it'll feel like I'm a real doctor and I'll be happy. And very quickly that's become, okay, once intern year is over, and my schedule isn't so terrible, it'll be good, like I'm a real doctor. And I'm pretty sure once I'm a second-year I'll think if only I was an attending... and then once I'm an attending, then if only I were in private practice... and then once I'm in private practice, then if only I could retire... and then once I retire, then if only I could... I don't know. But that can't be it.

I got a message on Facebook the other day from a friend I'm not in good enough touch with, who lives in a different city. He said he has a friend who works in business, not too far from me, that he knows we both work too much and complain about not having enough friends nearby, so he thinks we should meet up and maybe we'd be friends. It's like he's matchmaking, but for a platonic friendship. Which is nice of my friend to try and do-- I appreciate it, really. But it's been two weeks now and neither of us have any time to meet each other. I'm free at weird hours, he's free at no hours-- he works until 11 every night, never knows if he'll be out early... and even when I'm out early, I'm sleeping well before 11. But if I don't even have time to make a new friend, what is this life I have? And not that I want someone else's life-- no one I know seems to enjoy their work, and if they enjoy their work a little bit there's something else wrong-- it doesn't pay, or their personal life is a mess.

I meant for this to be an upbeat post, although I seem to have wandered back into the abyss. What was my point? Oh, okay, I remember-- things don't suck simply because I'm an intern. I can't blame residency. I wouldn't necessarily be any happier or any more satisfied doing something else. Everyone has problems, everyone struggles with how to find balance and reward in their lives. It's not the hospital's fault, it's not even necessarily my fault, it just is. And there are things I can be doing to make it better, but I'm not. I can force myself to make plans, even if I'm tired, I can turn off the TV, I can call my family more, I can call my friends more, I can live in less of a bubble. I can find things I like about my fellow residents, I can try harder to be friendly and not hate people two minutes after I meet them. I can try not to let my patients' quick marches toward death get me down so much (acknowledging that having less empathy is an odd goal). It can be better.

And that's my goal for this week. It can be better. I can try and find balance where balance might be hiding.

And I can focus on the good parts of the job. On the fact that I do help people, families are thankful, patients are thankful. I am making a difference, however small, in some lives. Not everyone can say that. Hardly anyone can say that.

I don't blame medical school. I don't regret my decision to become a doctor. At least not today.

1 comment:

  1. It's funny in this profession that we distinguish things on whether we're adequately selling the profession, or not. In other fields I think people just accept that the job is what it is, but maybe it's because there's so much hype, and assumption about what medicine is --- whether they're trying to apply to get in, or just seeing it on TV --- that even people in it keep wondering whether it lives up to the expectation. It's all about whether it meets the image of what it should be or not... whether we're selling it like the product advertised on those program descriptions on the application.

    I see so many, so, so many people who are chomping at the bit to try and get into medical school. They bust their ass, are so much more disciplined than I ever will (or want!) to be, are brainy as hell, and are willing to give up so much of their lives to their own idealized dream of being a doctor. And yet, when they ask me for my advice and "tips" on getting in, when I speak honestly about what my experiences have been they either look disappointed, or act like I'm probably some disgruntled weirdo. I just feel like I've got some responsibility to make sure people really know what they're getting into before they start on the medicine track, and ask themselves whether that combination of diligence, intellect, and passion to "make a difference" really is best served by becoming a doctor?

    I'm not sure if I would have still gone into medicine every day when I get home from work. I'm not sure if people ask themselves this question no matter what job they're in? Maybe though, my expectations for medicine are overinflated --- like, I DO expect that as a doctor I should be happy every SINGLE day I get home --- precisely because it has so much hype surrounding it. Nobody says it's so damn exciting being an accountant so I don't think anyone in finance would expect that going in. But people have this idea of what it is to be a doctor, and I had this idea of what it was to be a doctor, so I feel like anything short of that isn't totally fair... particularly after so many years in school signing up for that dream.