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:)


Anonymous said...

Hey Jess! Long time no talk. Yipes, you've been busy :) ; my sympathies. It struck me as profound and terrifying your comment about giving up part of yourself to the job, and the feelings of loss and dullness that losing pieces of yourself can provoke. It seems unfair that surgical specialities require you to be so single-minded and to give up on your other interests... why does it have to be that way? I have deep respect for your decision to shoot for Family Meds, and despite what the culture says, I don't think it's weak, lame, lazy, or any of those to opt for a life outside of medicine. Actually, I think it's courageous to think you could do more than one thing at once ;) ! Anyway, I hope that clerkship continues to guide your decisions and that there eventually is some peace for you in where you see your career going! You'll make a wonderful doctor no matter where you end up :) !! Hope to catch up with you soon,

Marie said...

Jessie, it is not lame in any way to pursue Family Medicine instead of a surgical specialty. Your outside interests will give you that extra something that others can relate to. And take it from one who knows -- 50 hours per week saps enough from the human soul without contemplating 60 - 80. And the longer one does it, the less it feels worth it.
My new family doc has also practiced emerg medicine for years, and after a grueling decade, decided to take 5 weeks off with her children this summer. Why can she do that? Because she practices with a small group of associates in a small clinic setting with their own on-site lab / tech. (I loove that aspect!) Do I feel neglected when she's away? No. I know her colleagues can cover off for anything that may come up, and it never hurts to have a "backup" relationship.
Love you,
Aunt Marie

Anonymous said...

Forgot to say that you have so many talents that it would take several lifetimes to explore them all! Balance is good...

Jennifer said...

Hi Jess, I just moved to Fredericton to do Family Medicine. Your mom has told me about you! I too struggled with the debate specialty vs family med. I had wanted to do radiology. In the end I decided that I wanted control over my hours, time for my friends, family, hobbies and face to face time with my patients. It was a tough decision, but one that will work well for me.

Come join us in Fredericton! We can knit and console each other :)

Don said...

Hi Jess,

Loved your Blog. You are one of the hardest working people I know and you never should feel like you are being lazy. The decisions you make have to be right for you and you should never have to worry about what other people will think.

In time you will figure it all out. Miss ya!