Return to medicine

10/02/2003 00:33:20
tags: medicine

Interestingly, my site has been active for around 6 months, and I haven’t written a single word about a pretty big part of my life - medicine. I guess there are definitely some reasons for it, as this has also been one of the aspects of my life that is the biggest struggle recently….

After finishing medical school, I went to Virginia to do a residency in Emergency Medicine. And when I arrived, I thought that it was the absolute best thing to have happened to me. The faculty and other residents were great. I really loved what I was doing.

But over time, that love began to fade. I noticed that I was increasingly frustrated by my patients, whereas I used to be excited at the opportunity of helping someone. I was becoming increasingly cynical, and it seemed as though that trend was going to continue over the course of my career.

So after a long period of reflection and discussions with my department chair, I decided to leave. The chairman, and the rest of the department, were incredibly supportive. It was certainly a hard decision, but the day I walked out of the hospital for the last time was one of the best days of my life.

It truly felt as if the omnipresent “weight” had been lifted from shoulders. I had NO idea what I was going to do next, yet somehow my future seemed better than it had a few weeks earlier. I didn’t have a job lined up, or a place to live, or any significant savings, or even the slightest idea what I now wanted to be when I “grew up.”

But I was happy…

Through a series of serendipitous accidents, I decided to return to NC where I had gone to college. Within a day or two of making the decision, I received an email annonuncing a job opening with a NC non-profit group, the Institute for Healing in Society and Medicine (IHSM) that develops educational programs for physicians in an effort to help them re-discover the “soul” of medicine. I figured who better to help out than someone who was already burned out enough to quit while still in residency? ;)

I ended up working with the group, primarily doing computer work and web design (an up and coming portion of the site is actually built around blosxom…) I spent a week in Santa Fe at a Zen Monastery for our first retreat. Who would have figured…

I can’t say that it was because of working with IHSM, though I am sure it played a part, but over the course of the last year, I have come to realize how important medicine is to me. I realized that I still don’t like the bureacracy that exists. Nor do I like the attitudes of blame shifting that run rampant throughout healthcare providers and patients alike. But I really do love the art and soul of medicine. I realized that despite all of the potentially lucrative careers I could try and enter, none of them would provide me even a fraction of the satisfaction that medicine does. Making money is great (especially when you don’t have any!), but it would not be nearly enough. I have been happier this past year being poor than I ever would have been working at another job that I didn’t love.

But I realized I needed a job that was about people. And at it’s heart, medicine is just that. It’s about a personal relationship between a doctor and a patient. It’s about the relationship to the patient’s family. It’s about being able to truly help someone who needs it.

I don’t plan on going back to the Emergency Department, but I am applying to residencies again in Internal Medicine. I am not sure where I will end up (as I have proven that the best-laid plans of mice and men…), but I am leaning towards Intensive Care. I liked the acuity of the ED, but didn’t feel that there was enough time to form the relationships that are important to me. We’ll see what happens.

But regardless of where it is, I won’t settle for being anything less than happy.

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