Sunday, September 11, 2016

When Medicine Is... Hard


Back at the beginning of the year, I had done a survey on my blog asking for the topics people felt most interested in.  There was a decided interest in my medical life, but I must admit, that after completing my emergency medicine residency/fellowship, I felt the need to focus on the other things in life.  I also often struggle with not wanting to share every detail of my life on social media.  It's just not me.  But I'd like to start a new little conversation series featuring different aspects of being in medicine.  I'd like to have honest conversations about the good, the bad, the hard, the rewards, and everything in between.  I have several followers that are in all different aspects of medicine, so ladies, this one is for you!

To start it off, I want to talk about something that we often don't mention in medicine.  When medicine is hard. And I'm not talking about the rigorous schedules, rotations, exams, work hours, or whatever it might be depending on where you are in your training.  For those of you who have picked a specialty such as critical care or emergency medicine such as I have, you may find this more pertinent.

My passion for emergency medicine began many years before I actually started pursuing it.  I loved the pace, the "cool things" that EM providers could do, the adrenaline rush, being on the front lines.  And I still love it today.  It's a part of me.  But I think it's important to realize that certain fields can be really hard- but again, not for the reasons I mentioned above.  It can be hard because of what you see, and what lingers with you.  And it changes you.

Those in medicine, I think, can relate to the change it can have on your life outside of medicine.  You simply don't have the free time or lifestyle that many of your friends and peers have.  And that's okay.  We chose something different.  I remember during so many night shifts in my large, inner-city hospital where, in a brief moment of free time, I would flip on to social media and see all the styled, perfect photos.  And I felt like crying.  It was very difficult for me to reconcile the world I was living in with those of many I saw on social media.  [It's about to get a little graphic]  I remember the night a newborn baby came in, burned on 90% of it's body... and the worst part.  It was because of the parents.  I remember my first night in the Cardiac ICU when the family member of a dying loved one collapsed into my arms, sobbing.  I remember the tears streaming down the internal medicine intern's face as she watched, helpless to do anything.  I remember holding back my own tears, as the cardiology fellow callously started discussing facts and figures to the family who was obviously not listening.  I remember placing a massive transfusion central line in a patient who was literally about to bleed out in front of me.  I remember the weathered face, and the calm that settled over it... recognizing, but not admitting how critical the situation was.  And lastly, one of the most poignant memories for me of my residency- rounding one morning in the ICU after a very long night.  Each and every member of the team was run down, tired, and struggling.  Each patient we passed, enclosed behind sliding glass doors- each patient I presented during rounds that day- was dying.  And not just dying slowly, but dying soon.  As in that very day.  And after so many nights of sleep deprivation, stress, chaos, and worst of all, getting to KNOW these patients, I did something I had never done before in my time in medicine.  As we neared my third, and last patient of the morning, I broke down sobbing.  I'll never forget that feeling.  I couldn't stop the deep, gutteral sobs that welled up inside of me.  As I felt them coming, I tried to gracefully pass my presentation to another resident.  I walked steadily to the resident's work room where I couldn't contain it anymore.  The sobs forced themselves aloud, and the tears fell with a steadiness I couldn't control.  I drove home through the city with tears clouding my vision.  When I finally got home, I collapsed into bed, letting it all go.

I learned so much during this time.  I DID so much.  I had good times too, please don't mistake me.  I had triumphs, and I had victories.  But it was then that I learned that medicine can be really hard.  Those memories, those feelings, they stay with you.  Some might say they haunt you.  And many people become callous and hardened by it, something I promised myself years ago that I wouldn't do. But in being willing to stay the way you are, allowing yourself to have empathy for the patient, and to feel those losses with the patient and their families, also places a burden on you.  The key is learning how to deal with that burden.  Learning how to put it aside when you leave the hospital.  It's hard, and it's something I'm still learning how to do.  But it is during these times that one's perspective is changed.  As I said, it became difficult during that time to be engaged in social media to much extent.  I couldn't reconcile my world at the time with those beautiful, fairy-tale like photos.  And my long-time readers will probably have noticed that not much blogging occurred during that time :).  My job now is not at all like my urban residency, which in many ways is good.  But I just want to encourage those of you who are still in your training, or maybe are out of training and working in your chosen field.  It's okay that medicine gets to you sometimes.  It's okay if you can't relate to everyone outside of medicine sometimes.  Life is so different for each individual, and for us to say that our lives must all be the same isn't realistic, nor is it God's plan for us.  It's okay, my medical friends, that medicine can be really, very hard.

Well, friends.  This is probably the LONGEST post I've ever written.  But I hope that my medical readers, and non-medical readers alike, can appreciate this post.  If you have any questions or stories of your own to share, please don't hesitate dropping me an email!  I'd love to connect with you!


(The Quote In the Frame Above)


3 comments:

  1. Thank you for such honest and beautiful words! ❤️

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  2. Thank you for sharing the real side of medicine. <3

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  3. Perfectly written. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hardened from working in the ER. There's a lot of sacrifice that goes into medicine and all of the years leading up to it.

    Heather
    Partial to Pink

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Thank you for your sweet comments!