Saturday, June 12, 2004

not to be all serious or anything, but...

Just in case you haven't been following, this is a conversation that has been taking place in the comments section. I decided to share it here because I actually think it brings up an interesting topic for discussion, and I thank Gogoli for starting it off:

you are a peds doc yet you never mention having any kids, nor how great it is to work with them, nor saving their lives. it kinda gives me the notion that docs are just becoming ducks for the money and prestige only...which is true for the majority of the time.

-- Gogoli

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That is one way to look at it, I suppose. Another way to look at it is that as a doctor, there are patient confidentiality issues that I have to be very aware of, and for that reason, I actually try to tell very few stories about specific patients. The last thing a parent wants is for me to be blabbing about their kid's medical care on the internet. In addition, my whole life thankfully does not revolve around my job and career, which is why that's not all that I talk about.

Finally, medicine (particuarly Pediatrics) is probably the last field you'd want to go into if you were "in it for the money." Trust me on this one.

-- Michelle
* * *

do you enjoy what you do?
-- Gogoli

* * *

(In answer, I wrote this response, but it was too long to put in the comments section, so here it is out on the main page)

Much of the time I do like what I do, but sometimes I don't. And that's just the unvarnished truth of it. I don't know any doctor or resident or nurse who loves what they do 100% of the time, or are thinking unflaggingly and selflessly about their patients 100% of the time. To paraphrase a great and learned doctor (Doctor J, aka Julius Irving), being a professional is doing what you love to do every day, even on the days that you don't feel like doing it.

True, medicine is a vocation, it's a calling, but let's be honest, it's also a day-to-day job. Let's not elevate the practice of medicine to mythical proportions, here. Ideally, we would all find our ideal careers at the interface of what we love to do and what we do best. I think I've managed to get pretty close, but that doesn't mean that I go skipping in to work every morning with a giant smile on my face or some charged sense of purpose. It's still real life, after all.

We can't expect superhuman things from our doctors, and as doctors, we can't expect the extraordinary from ourselves all the time. We get tired, hungry, irritable, stressed. We miss our families and friends, miss the quiet time for ourselves, and can resent the hospital for the long hours we have to work that take us away from the other things that we love. How could we not?

Yes, medicine is a noble profession. Yes, it's about something that's bigger than oneself. Yes, the bond between patient and doctor is a sacred trust, and all that lofty stuff they tell you in med school. But it's still your life. It's not dirty or unethical for doctors to want to be well-compensated for their work, or to think about their own interests or those of their loved ones. That's just how it is. As long as we go in every day, do our jobs, care for and about our patients to the best of our abilities without allowing outside concerns to affect our work, then we're doing a pretty good job.

-- Michelle
* * *

I hope no one thinks I'm slamming anyone here by putting up that exchange, because it's not meant that way, and again, I thank Gogoli for bringing up the topic. It's an interesting one, this question of "How to be a doctor, but a real life person as well." I've thought about it a lot, but the nuances escaped me until I started thinking in earnest two years ago about what kind of medicine I wanted to practice, and the life I wanted to have while doing it. There's a lot to think about, and I think most of us still wrestle with that question every day.

However, speaking of outside lives, I just met up with Sara And Company last night out at Yabby's in Williamsburg. She's in town from L.A. for Pavani's wedding, and it was good to see her, because, you know, she lives far away and such. There was a sizeable outdoor seating area at the bar, and given that the young artsy intelligentsia have taken root in Williamsburg over the past 5 or so years, we were sitting in a maelstrom of cigarette smoke. Since the indoor smoking ban in New York a year and a half ago, I haven't come home from a night out with my hair and clothes smelling like smoke, but I was reeking last night. If I were a comic book character, I would have had all those wavy lines emanating from my being, trailing behind me wherever I walked.

I have to start keeping in better touch with my friends. It's just ridiculous how bad I've been at this. I'm going to e-mail Sara when she gets back to L.A., and we will start a mighty electronic exchange the likes of which this world has never seen.

Currently reading: McSweeny's Quarterly, 13th ed. I love it, but it's a little hard to read because it's heavy and hard to hold up for prolonged periods of time.

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1 comment:

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