I don’t write much about being a doctor because I do it every day and I prefer to write about non-medical topics, but my absolute favorite part of doctoring is meeting different people and hearing their life stories. I’m admittedly slower than I should be because I love hearing about people’s families, childhood, histories, etc. With my return patients, I always ask for updates and love to learn about what’s new.
Doctoring is a lot like waitressing – another job I really enjoyed. It can be tough on an introvert and draining after a long day of multiple patient visits. It can be taxing not only because of volume and patient turnover, but also because of the heaviness of the stories I hear. I am so honored that my patients share with me the things that they do. I keep these stories with me and often recall snippets years down the line.
Many years ago, one of my patients gave me a shark-tooth necklace. He was dying and making necklaces during his time in the hospital. I still keep this tucked away in my jewelry box, almost a decade later. It was my first gift from a patient, and he was one of the first patients I encountered during medical school.
Similarly, snippets of conversations weigh heavily on my mind. I think about my treatment plans – was everything correct? What will that one outstanding test say – will it change my management? How is my patient who just left the hospital – has she improved? Being a doctor is a tough job to leave at work. I can rarely escape it.
When I was growing up, my father would say: “Don’t become a doctor to make money.”
When I was in medical school, people would say: “Medicine isn’t what it used to be.”
I have known people who have dropped out before medical school, during medical school, after medical school, during or after residency. It’s not for everyone. You don’t clock in at 9:00am and clock out at 5:00pm. My husband will ask “How come if your last patient was at 4:00pm you didn’t come home until 6:00pm?” and it’s because medicine is messy and patients can’t be tucked neatly into 15 minute appointment slots. Also because there’s a load of electronic documentation that has to be done – but that’s a story for another day.
It’s rarely easy but I love what I do. The hours fly by in a blur. The patient encounters invigorate me. I learn something new every day and I come home with the knowledge that I have had a positive impact on someone’s life as well as their health.
What I would say to someone choosing a career in medicine: it’s so hard to know whether you will love it. And it’s true that so much has and will continue to change within medicine. But if you love science, interacting with people, and healing, it’s a great career choice, so don’t focus too much on the naysayers.