I didn’t enter to the medical world fully prepared for the ambivalence feeling accompanying this profession. I have changed a lot, shifted from a nice human to a mean doctor and back a few times, not always knowing where I stand.
Where is the line between the patient life and my personal medical career?
A few weeks back I’ve seen a 70 years old female patient in bed 7 with a heart rate of 30 beats per minute (yes, it is slow. Normal 60-100). She was intubated and unstable so a bedside pacemaker was placed by the cardiologist on call.
As I watch the cardiologist insert the pacemaker I couldn’t help the excitement, even when her heart rate dropped to 15 beats per minute, and we stood their prepared to start resuscitation in case her heart stops. She was literally between life and death, and in my head I said “that is so cool”.
A second later I turned on the pacemaker and Bed 7 heart rate went up directly to 90 beats per minute. It was so beautiful.
“A picture is worth a thousand words”? Try “watching one procedure is worth a thousand hours of studying”
In the medical world, to learn, watch and experience means someone else is suffering, and I can’t seem to solve the conflict between my excitement to watch a procedure and wishing health to all people. How can these both co-exist?
I wish Bed 7 health, I wish she didn’t have to go through that, but I am glad she did and I was there to see it. Ambivalence.
In the winter, many people (especially elderly) come to the emergency department with a high fever. I am very much used to it.
It was a very busy day and I run between beds (great workout).
In bed 4 an old lady had a fever of 40.3°C, stable. I can’t remember if it was urinary tract infection or pneumonia, but we got her covered.
Bed 4’s daughter came and started to panic over her mother condition, demanding detailed answers from me. I was busy and annoyed to be honest. But as I opened my mouth to say “Relax” rudely, I froze.
This lady is worried about her mother; she never heard of 40.3°C fever and has no medical knowledge. This moment of clarity made me put down the needles and the stethoscope to take a moment of my time to explain softly “I know you are worried, but we see everyday a fever of more the 40°C. Your mother is already getting treatment and I suggest you sit by her bed until they transfer her to the internal medicine department where you are going to receive much more answers”.
When I got home that night, it wasn’t the medicine I remembered, it was the human.
I heard once a story of a trauma surgeon, she was on her way home after a 26 hours shift. She was so tired and just wanted to sleep. The hospital called, they wanted her back so she could operate on an unstable trauma patient from a car accident.
She turned her car and drove back to the hospital, thinking “I wish he died and so the hospital will call back to tell me to go home to sleep”. She knew right then she needed a break.
I carry this story as a reminder for the balance I need to keep between being a human and being a robotic doctor. I hope I never cross the line.