Sunday, June 20, 2010

The View From On-Call

I'm sitting by the window of the NICU call room, gazing out over Lake Ontario at a) the hospital smokestack, and b) what appears to be a lovely Sunday afternoon. I'm on my second 24-hour call shift in three days, and am hoping that my pager will be a bit more quiet than the last night I was on. I'm grateful for this little spot by the window, where I can come for a brief moment of comfort, away from all of the beeping monitors, hurried voices, and high tension.

Over the past week I've had a giant paradigm shift - one that I'm trying not to let disturb my inner core. I didn't realize, on the beginning of this journey into the world of medicine, how much of myself I would give up. We see it on TV, and in the media; the doctors, residents and med students who are sleep-deprived and constantly working. I expected to work hard, but I didn't know how it would feel, how hard it could be on the human spirit. I feel guilty when the busy yet very kind resident stops to ask me if I've had anything to eat, when it's 8pm and I know they probably haven't stopped to rest or eat since much earlier in the day, and that they probably won't stop for many hours yet.

A room with a view, at least

I love working hard - I'm happy as a clam to have a list of things to do as long as my arm, be it scut work, seeing patients, a busy emerg clinic, or admissions. What I don't like is the fact that my apartment is dirty, I no longer have time for hobbies, I barely see friends unless we run into each other on-call, and being chronically tired/feeling dull and unprepared for teaching sessions because there just isn't enough time to study.

Please feel free to disturb me occasionally... just not that often

It's with mixed emotions that all of this has come about - it's hard not to feel lazy, weak, or like I'm letting myself and others down. Ultimately I'm trying to reassure myself that I'm choosing to "work to live", not the other way around. I love medicine, and I care about patients, but there are other things in life I like too, and I think I'm a person who will be happier with a better balance in life over an intense career. The kicker was being at a BBQ with classmates last night and overhearing a conversation that went something like this: "yeah, I'm gunning for specialty x. What's the point? I'm single, have no responsibilities, and what would I be making time for in my life if I did something less demanding?". I could come up with many things I would be making time for if I did something less demanding. Now to get over the guilt of "only" wanting to work 50 hours a week instead of 80...

All of this to say I haven't knit, sewn, or embroidered much in a very long time:)