* * Anonymous Doc

Monday, September 12, 2011

Re: previous post-- in a reassuring turn, we are still not sure. Perhaps intestinal material. Perhaps some material placed inside after a recent surgery. Perhaps something else entirely. But the patient's still alive, so that's a good thing. Can't possibly be a good thing coming out of his rectum, but, whatever it is, it seems to have stopped.

One of the things it's hardest to get used to about residency is never knowing what happens to most of the patients. I switch rotations, or they switch services, and there's no system to know what the result is. Not that I want an endless daily report on everyone I've ever treated, but sometimes, a couple of days or weeks or months later, a patient crosses your mind, and you don't remember the name, and you don't have anyone to ask, and so you just never know. Maybe you see them again, months later-- it happens, more than you think it would-- and they're back on your service, so you end up seeing how they're doing-- but, usually, you never have a clue. Part of why this is less rewarding than perhaps private practice would be. Although, there too, people move, people change doctors, people die without you finding out, I'm sure. You're such an important part of someone's life often for such a very short time. It surprises me sometimes when I realize I care. When someone happens to have some quality that reminds me of someone in my family, or is in a situation I can empathize with, or we just have that little connection that makes it feel like more than just ticking the boxes each day and writing the note. But, far too often, it just feels like an academic exercise. I wonder what's wrong, I wonder what the plan is, I wonder if they'll get better. The same way someone might wonder how their science fair experiment will turn out. Oh, look, giving a sedative does exactly the opposite of what I would have expected! Interesting! Hope to remember that next time. Maybe I should write it down.


  1. I think you are simply "becoming" a doctor. Your head is starting to wrap itself around the concept of what you can and cannot do. You cannot possibly "care" about every single patient. You see too many and like you say, little to no followup.

  2. This is one of the nice things about working in a relatively small city - I can ask my colleagues who take over the service from me what happens to the patients, or I can search the obituaries to keep up with who has died. Just today I was going through the EPR looking at former patients and piecing together what was going on with them from their lab and imaging results. Like you, I always want to know what happens.

  3. @ solitary diner: be careful. that could be construed as a HIPPA violation