I started medical school at 28 with 3 little kids who were 5, 3, and 10 months at that time. I had energy to take care of home, husband, kids and study. I made it through residency with a few more gray hairs but was for the most part enjoyable. I had avoided the more strenuous and time consuming residencies because I wanted a family life, which I have truly loved. Then I paid back my time to the US Air Force and life got a little more stressful.
I am not sure if it was the lovely combat boots, the ever changing rules, the fact that I did not have control of my time or travels or the facing a young mother who was about to leave her young infant for a year long deployment. This takes a lot of “brain and heart” energy that I sometimes do not want to expend. I find myself feeling guilty over this but my husband, kids, family and friends need me to be “fully there” also and at times I am just emotionally and mentally spent.
Now as a civilian a typical day may consist of dealing with a depressed cancer patient and their stressed family members, a concerned mother worrying about her obese child, a middle aged woman with vaginal bleeding after menopause, a hypertensive diabetic patient with an oh by the way I have chest pain, or the patient who has lost their job and will soon be homeless and the list goes on and on. Between discussing odd symptoms, rashes, patient comments with colleagues, pouring through online and print resources and cramming the newest medications in my brain…guess what…I am worried about my patients and exhausted at the end of the day.
My weekends take me away to a place without the stresses of patients’ needs but amazingly enough my thoughts always go back to a patient or two. I find myself thinking of a new strategy to combat their hypertension, a positive word I can say to the worried mom, or make a mental note to call a patient on Monday morning to see what the specialist said. So, even though I am tired I cannot pull myself away from the things I love…family, friends and medicine.
I have yet to decide if this line of work is healthy for me but it certainly is addicting and for the most part enjoyable. I certainly pray a lot more these days than I did when I was younger with fewer responsibilities and more energy. I have learned and changed so much from my patients I can’t imagine who I would be otherwise. So as I walk through my day I must remember to take a deep breath, and enjoy these patient doctor moments because I will never be the same.