Has it really only been two weeks since the start of residency?
How quickly do we loose the bright eyes and bushy tails and only see the grind of a new job? Too quickly alas. And while there is welcomed comfort in predictability, there is also a great danger of loosing sight of the bigger picture. Nowhere perhaps is that risk greater than in medicine, where we refer to patients by their room numbers rather than their names and spend more time behind computers documenting the care we attempt to give than laying a sympathetic hand on a shoulder. I understand why this happens. The hours are long and the work is difficult. After just two weeks, I can already sense that subtle feeling of discontent rearing its ugly head: too much work to do, not enough time to wind down, underdeveloped working relationships, strained personal relationships, no milk in the fridge.
I was on the phone with my darling – a fellow medical type – the other day. He was watching a documentary on a rather controversial medical topic. My first reply was: “On your day off? Why?” He said that it helped him put some compassion and emotion back into the charting he needed to do later on (on his day off).
Some months ago in medical school, I wrote a reflective piece on a patient I had seen during my geriatrics clerkship. I later submitted the piece for publication with The Intima, an online journal of narrative medicine. My piece, The Lady in Pink, was published, and I was also asked to write a blog post connecting my story with another writer’s piece as a way of keeping the narrative going.
This is why I write. I write to keep the feeling of discontent at bay. I write to keep perspective and remind myself that it is never about the paperwork or the presentation I gave to colleagues or the fact that I finally – finally! – know how to order this medication without looking it up first. It is always about the people and those moments where we connect as human beings. It’s me sitting at the bedside and painting with a child when I could have gone home and napped an extra 30 minutes. It’s watching my boss sit down on the edge of the chair next to a parent and asking if all their questions have been answered. It is always about the people.
When the reasons for connecting with others are illness, wellness, and hopes for a full life, what could be more meaningful?