Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hard, but worth it

I love being a medicine attending in July. It's often more intense work since everyone's in a new role. Bright, fresh interns. Excited new R2s and R3s. And the medical students- the new third-year students who have toiled in the classroom finally get to focus on patient care. Their enthusiasm over hearing a mitral regurgitation murmur, over watching a paracentesis, and, well, their enthusiasm over everything, is infectious. Perhaps it's a bit of a vicarious thrill to be re-living that excitement again  - the realization that we have such a privilege to care for patients and to make a real difference in their lives, of being empowered by knowing and understanding, and being consciously aware of our own growth as physicians. As a medical educator, July is a highlight of the year. Hard, but worth it.

On a recent weekend day, I was rounding with my residents and students. Working on the weekends is my least favorite part of attending on the wards. These are days that belong to the family unit; I always feel an anticipatory dread leading up to a weekend work day. Of course, once I'm there and working, it's all about teaching, about patients, and it goes by quickly.

Well on this day, I had finished rounds with the team, but had something important I felt I needed to do before I could leave for the day and catch up with my family. There was a patient whose struggle with his illness had moved me, and I wanted to make sure he knew I had heard him, that I understood. So, I wrote something for him: his story, as told to me, as received by me. Not his History of Present Illness, mind you, but his real story - his loss of his identity due to his illness. This was his suffering I needed to acknowledge. I asked him if I could read something I wrote him.

That moment, of reading those short few paragraphs, was filled with light. There were tears. There was an opening of wounds. There was sharing - so meaningful and real and deep -that it nearly blew me away. Nine years of being an attending and I am still able to be blown away by the absolute honor of doing this work. It didn't matter that it was the weekend. That I was at work. I was simply filled with gratefulness for this moment and for the job I am so lucky to have.

It's moments like this that remind me it is entirely worth it, weekends and all.  It is a gift.

*This patient gave me his permission to share this moment.


  1. I was so down after getting my scores back from the midterm last week (I'm MS2 & in trimester system), but reading your story was a good thing to do now. Thank you and your patient for reminding me why I'm in medical school. God bless!

  2. Thanks for sharing KC. I am in my first week of being an attending (gulp!) and it is so much harder, and yet so much more rewarding. What a wonderful reminder of the importance of taking the time to connect with patients in those personal moments- for me that's what makes it worth it every time.

  3. Love this. I am an oncology nurse and newly minted oncology NP. Most days that I work on my unit (inpatient hemeonc-bmt have moments like that. So hard but so poignant. I couldn't do anything else.

  4. I'm a first year medical students and often time dread if this is the field for me. The road is so long, and it often gets discouraging. This blog post is really encouraging and it reveals the future of how it will be worth it at the end.


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