My Dearest Med Student,
I see the look of fear in your eyes when you come into my room. It warms my heart to meet you before you have decided that you know oceans more than I could possibly comprehend. Your sweetness makes me want to help you.
I have been on this ride for a very long time. I have lived with chronic illness, acute illness, sudden onset illness and terminal illness. I know my medications, my disease process and my options. I have learned to be an effective advocate and may offer you insight or provide you with a challenge. I tell you these things not to brag. It is to confess…despite my ability for self care, at the end of the day, you and I have to work together, and you still hold a lot of power.
I used to think a lot of doctors were stupid. I used to think a lot of doctors were cruel. I don’t think that as much anymore. I think you have taken on something that is beyond your expectations. I think the job you do is difficult beyond your wildest dreams.
Those of you who work in the medical field have quite a predicament. Taking care of the sick and the dying is a job. A job is something you do to make money and then go home. At the same time, that “job” has an impact on people that could alter the very course of their lives. I don’t envy the kind of emotional and mental balancing act it must take to work in this field. It is my opinion, however, that doing this job well means more than knowing which medications interact with other medications or how many CCs go into that syringe.
There will be a time when you will come to a crossroads. You will have gained enough knowledge to make you feel confident. You will have dealt with enough difficult patients to make you feel annoyed and maybe a bit little self-righteous. You will have a choice. You can become one of the doctors who stops listening to those they treat or remain one of the ones who do. You can disconnect from what you are doing and see the lives before you as cases, or remember that they are mothers, grandfathers, children. You can go to work to medicate people or you can help them heal. These are very different.
I have had doctors who inspired me to be a better person. I have had doctors who inspired me to fight to live longer. I have had doctors who made me want to give up and cease to exist. The influence you hold is powerful and beyond your imagination. You call this your job but, really, isn’t it so much more? Being a doctor is an awesome responsibility. It is my experience that the good ones are never so bold as to think that they are up to the task.
We have much to teach each other, you and I.
The Difficult Patient in Room 6543