Friday, October 08, 2010

i am trying to finish this entry without saying the word "blogosphere"

I know this is irrational, but when I'm on call for the weekend and everyone around me is celebrating how happy they are that it's finally Friday I kind of want to punch them in the nuts. (Substitute ovaries if the person I'm going to punch is a lady.) Being on call on the weekend is just depressing. I know I'm not on call every weekend, and we all take turns doing it, but man, there's something about walking into the ORs early on a Saturday morning before the lights have even been turned on--all the while knowing that normal people everywhere are either sleeping or playing with their kids or just generally doing leisurely things far, far away from the hospital--that just makes you feel forsaken.

But anyway, my point here is not to complain about being on call this weekend, rather to ask for some feedback. I have been blogging for just about ten years now, since the beginning of my second year of medical school. Except we didn't call them blogs then, we called them "online journals" or "personal web pages," and it never really occurred to me to not write under my real name, because of course, no one was going to read it except for people who knew me already, right? (Those were more innocent times--some would say stupider.)

Anyway, obviously the internet has changed a lot since the year 2000--or as we called it at the time, "Y2K," while we holed up in our impermeable canned food-stocked bunkers awaiting the apocalypse--and while I was not aware of any other medical-type blogs at the time that I started mine, now there are probably thousands. The fact of it is it's very easy to have a blog now, and many people have, though the range of medical blogs run the full spectrum of genres. Some are informational, some a personal, some are clinical and some are introspective. Some people blog under their real names and some blog anonymously, some blog for perspective and some blog to bitch about being on call this weekend. (Cough.) Probably in most ways, the reasons behind medical blogging aren't much different from the reasons behind much of the content on the internet, though obviously, the edifice of medicine presents some interesting overlay as well as unique issues and challenges.

Let's say that there was to be a panel discussion group of medical bloggers. Let's say there would be a presentation portion, and then an open discussion portion. What issues would you want that panel to hit upon? What topics would you want discussed? What questions would you ask? Or, if you're a medical blogger yourself, what particular difficulties or rewards have you come across that you didn't expect when you started writing online?

There is more to this story than just me asking idly, of course, but further information as events warrant--for now, let's talk blogging in medicine. What would you like to know? And what kind of stuff do you think I might like to know?


  1. Allow me: "blogosphere." That word sucks almost as much as "chipotle."

    That out of the way, as a fellow physician heading into a weekend call and frantically trying to finish editing and posting a video for my own blog, I've noticed no one conveniently nearby to punch in the nuts. May just have to clock myself in the jewels and get it over with. I did just dig into a can of beans left over my from Y2K bunker, though.

    If I survive the botulism, I'll write back with my completely uninteresting thoughts on your questions. But first, must finish video on stool transplants...will be called Potty Mouth. Good times, this internet thing.

  2. Anonymity seems to be THE issue of the moment, and rightfully so. On one hand, there's a relief that comes with owning every word you say - you know you're less likely to say something that your hospital or school would frown upon - but on the other hand, the self-censorship can sometimes feel like it's defeating the purpose.

    My gut instinct was to blog under my real name, but I've chosen to be anonymous - mostly because it's a one-way street (I can go from anonymous -> real name later, but not vice-versa), but also because I imagine my future patients wouldn't want to google my name only to find out how I felt completely incompetent with histology, suspected at least some of it was made-up, and drank post-test margaritas.

    ... Unless my future patients are also med students. Then they'd probably understand.

  3. Anonymous10:20 PM

    Have you been recognized in real life?
    Have patients/nurses/co workers said anything about the blog?
    How do you find time to write entries?
    Do you regret blogging?
    Do you worry about stalkers?
    Do you feel blogging has opened new opportunities (the book, for example)?

  4. Anonymous10:32 PM

    I guess "chipotle" sucks if you can't pronounce it. But it is a real word, you know, not just a made up fast "Mexican" (quotes are for sarcasm here) food chain name.

    I also would have questions about the implications as a medical professional blogging under your real name. Has it caused any problems in the professional setting? Do employers/patients ever doubt your confidentiality?

  5. I also am insanely curious about your co-workers/employer's reaction to your blog - do they know that you have one? What do they think about it? Is it ok with them as long as you don't disclose confidences and confidential information about patients and the hospital that you work for?

    Also, I *really* enjoy reading about your struggle to balance work and life - I'm a lawyer and a mommy - I'm just about to have my second one (i have a nearly three year old already) and I realy like hearing about what you do to balance it.

  6. i choose not to be anonymous, in part because i can't stand the idea that i would have to hide the fact that i'm a real person who struggles sometimes just because i am in the medical field. of course, i write with this in mind: while i feel i am quite honest and open, i treat my site like an open book. i actually think it may be more dangerous to be anonymous but not think about every word you write as public. what if someone finds you out!?

    i also feel that posting under my true identity sometimes reflects back on my own behavior in a positive way. it's sort of backwards, but i know that there are some people in my workplace who read my thoughts online, and this might actually prevent me from being short with someone over the phone or with students and interns at work.

    with respect to a panel, michelle, i think you would be a great addition. i really appreciate how your blog generally focuses on the OTHER side of medicine -- ie, the rest of life. in my opinion, there are not enough sites like that out there.

    finally, i don't like the term 'blogosphere' but i find myself using it anyway because there is no good one-word alternative. any suggestions?

  7. ps: i'm on call this whole weekend too. wouldn't it all be much nicer if we could have monday off as a consolation prize or something?

  8. Sarah, please don't kick me in the nuts, but I fortunately do get Monday off as a consolation prize. I'm going to spend it devising an alternative word for blogosphere (and chipotle).

    I appreciate your thoughts on blogging under your real name. I use a thinly veiled pseudonym for a couple of reasons. I say 'thinly veiled' because anyone can easily figure out who I am either by searching online or by pointing at their screen and going 'That's Zubin!' I do videos, after all...hard to hide there.

    One reason I use the pseudonym is to distinguish a bit between the character I'm portraying in my videos (who is perhaps a hair more juvenile than I fancy my professional self) and my work persona. Almost an alter ego of sorts...although clearly part of who I am, for better or for worse.

    The second reason is that I don't want patients to google my real name and have the first hit be 'Pull and Pray-- The Safe Sex Song.' Third hit, fine. First hit, a bit much. These are sick, hospitalized patients with whom I have a limited time to work, so I'd like to avoid creating too much anxiety. Although sometimes the nurses or my intern will spill the beans and I'll walk in on a patient watching my videos...luckily I haven't been fired yet.

    Silly reasons perhaps, but they are mine and are certainly influenced by the fact that I do satirical video. Of course, Michelle has been doing satire for years under her real name. But she's got much bigger ovaries than a coward like me.

    Here's to hoping all our weekend shifts don't suck!

  9. I'd love to know what you think about the lines between medical professionalism and blogging about your career in medicine. I'm a second year med student and I started a blog to keep my family and friends up to date on my experiences.

    Every so often the administration at my school sends out a reminder email stating that it is a breach of our "professionalism" to talk about the patients we see in a public forum. If the stories you share do not violate HIPAA, then are you being unprofessional?

    I'd love to know you're thoughts.

  10. I also work weekend and want to punch people, but it has been years now and I just ignore them. It's rare I ever get a whole day off so when teachers bitch about their schedule i want to fire bomb them.

  11. There are great ideas here!

    anonymity. or not. the veil.
    the personas.
    the balance.
    the co-workers.
    the patients.
    the impact.
    anonymity? privacy. confidentiality.

    sounds like a great panel. i hope if i can't get there that it gets posted somewhere in cyberspace. or outer space. or narnia. wheresoever we can see it and/or read it.

  12. Thayse12:54 PM

    Hi, I would like to read more about your work routine, interesting cases, more about the anesthesiology world (I´m an Anesthesiology resident, so, I´m very curious about this topic!). By the way, your blog is awesome, congratulations!

  13. Hi, I love your blog and your intelligent sarcasm. I would love to hear more about your relationship with Joe and how you are able to make time for each other because I'm dating a doctor and we struggle so much with that.

  14. I'm a third year med student--I think this blog is fantastic. I hope to go into gen surg or obgyn, so it's interesting to hear what you say as an anesthesiologist with a rigorous schedule. I'd love to know more about how you planned your family. I am far away from starting a family, but it so so hard for me to conceptualize how it'll work. My boyfriend is also a medical student, and while he isn't interested in surgery we will be residents together which will make child planning...interesting.
    Also, as I work in a safety net hospital, I'd love to hear your feelings on being in medicine today. The business of medicine has gotten challenging, to say the least. Would love to hear your thoughts on malpractice fees, healthcare system, etc.

  15. Anonymous5:59 PM

    I love your blog. I am a mother to a 2 year old and also a full time working doctor. There were many times when I just wanna gave up breastfeeding/pumping/working full time etc and then I thought, "If Michelle can do it, so can I!" (I ended up pumping for one whole year while working full time.)

    I also love this blog called "Where's my cape", by an internist who's a mother of two. She also has a website called "Mothers in Medicine" which I also love. (Your blog is on their blogroll, so I'm sure you know about their website.)

    What I wanna know more....your family life. Small stuff. Like who sends Cal to school? Is your nanny a live-in one? If not, what do you do when you are on call and Joe got paged? How often do you rely on grandparents' help with childcare? Do you have a cleaning lady? Who prepares dinner every day?

  16. Anonymous9:27 AM

    Now that Joe and you are both attendings, have you thought about going part time (or Joe going part time), so one of you is home more with the kids?

  17. interesting points here! i decided to use a pseudonym for my blog (one which is something of an inside joke for my family members), on the recommendation of my lawyer boyfriend. It's not wholly anonymous in that a very clear photo of me is there on the main page, and anyone who knows me can tell that it's me right away. (Also, my best friend thinks that my writing style is exactly as I speak.) But I think not using a name is reasonable in today's world of frivolous litigation, and it protects my surgical program and hospital to a small extent as well. When I mention other residents at other hospitals, I usually try to hide their identities as well.

  18. Thanks for giving a bit of camaraderie to those who are also on call this weekend. I've taken to yelling at radio commercials who ask us to "celebrate the holiday weekend" buy buying furniture or cars. "I'm working this weekend and my office is open Monday!" I've yelled back but it's not helping. . .

  19. I would love to read about some ethical dilemmas you've faced/encountered in your job/as a medical student/resident, etc!