a resident physician on life through doctoring
Seems appropriate to do some reflection now that it’s a brand spanking new year. That’s the one thing I like about having discrete increments of time. It’s always beneficial to mull on the past a bit… appreciate it, learn from it, and move on. I can’t complain about 2010… it was a great year. It included my last semester of med school, which was one of the best times of my life. So much traveling and literally just having a fun time without any worries. It brought the end of a few ties and the start of new ones. And now I’m halfway done with my intern year. Pretty damn cool.
I did take a short hiatus from blogging simply because I was on ICU for one month and then I lost some of my motivation to use blogging as an outlet because I found myself busier just living life. I’ve learned that I tend to look toward blogging as an emotional outlet and I do that more when I’m in some sort of general slump in life. So it should be seen as a positive that I haven’t needed to blog lately. However, I do want to record what I will likely look back on as one of the more tumultuous times in my life so I can appreciate where I am in years to come.
Without further ado, here is my own list.
What’s Right With My Life:
1. I live with my parents. They do everything for me, and gladly so. My mom cooks for me, washes my clothes, and even makes my bed. Yes, you can say it - I am a pampered princess lol.
2. I have a great support system. My fella, my friends, and my family are my safety net. Without them nothing I do would be possible or nearly as tolerable.
3. My residency program is ideal for me in many ways. Great attendings, great co-residents and situated in a nice neighborhood (in other words, I don’t work in the ghetto). We see a wide range of patients and pathology that only a level 1 trauma center could bring in. I work harder than any of my fellow Kaiser residents probably but not nearly as hard as any residents at county programs. And finally, we are quite unique as we are able to rotate through several hospitals.
4. Love for what I do. There is no other definition in my mind about what constitutes being a true physician than Internal Medicine.
What’s Wrong With My Life:
1. I live with my parents. Although I love them, there is no such thing as privacy or having much of my own space. I generally don’t even watch TV as I usually just defer to whatever they like to watch (which unfortunately are Korean soap operas).
2. My fella currently lives and works thousands of miles away. Wish he could be near me and closer to home but I appreciate the time we do have together all the more.
3. Having to go through the rigors of residency, period. There’s nothing particularly fun about working 80 hours a week. I neglect friends/family, become sleep deprived, and find myself questioning my sanity. It really blows to be young and watch your peers move forward with their lives and have their regular 9 to 5s with weekends off while I’m working most weekends and making less than minimum wage. Let’s not even get into my insane debt from 8-9 years of post-HS education.
4. Frustrations with patients and the system in general. It’s difficult to help people who don’t want to help themselves. Of course, the number of obstacles to simply helping patients is astounding. There is bureaucracy and red tape, etc and then there are social issues and personal issues. What nobody tells you when you’re working towards being a physician is that it’s not just pure illness you’re dealing with - it’s also insurance (or lack thereof), whether the patient has a support system at home to deal with taking care of their ailment, or their perspective on being sick in general. What do you do with a patient in denial about their diabetes, without the resources to pay for their medications and without a family supportive about their dietary needs? Really, there is only so much you can do.
Well you may have astutely realized that my lists mirror one another. There’s positives and negatives about everything in life. It just all depends on which side you want to spend most of your time focused on. I think those who are happier change the things they are unhappy about or decide on a sunnier perspective in regard to the things they cannot change. If it broke, fix it!
One of the things that inspired me to start this blog was a book I read several years ago, called Intern Blues. It tracked the lives of 3 young interns starting a pediatric residency in the Bronx, NY. These interns all carried voice recorders and kept notes on their daily on-goings and lives as residents. I think the book is almost a must-read for anyone even thinking of going into residency. When I read it, I don’t even think I was in medical school yet. My disclaimer is that I think the book would only be interesting to those pursuing a medical career and that the book is a huge huge downer. There is nothing uplifting about the book because let’s face it, there is almost nothing uplifting about internship. It is a cold hard look at the reality of the first year of medical residency and definitely makes you think twice about what you’re getting yourself into. I decided to include a few excerpts in my blog from the book over the next few posts because I am now at a place in my life where I can really relate to what they were going through. The interns detail their frustrations about everything including their personal lives, co-interns, administration, nurses, and even the “shitty coffee.”
This one is for my boyfriend, because maybe he can relate to it. This intern makes a list of what is right and what is wrong with his life (edited out names because they are irrelevant and they are changed anyway).
Excerpt from Intern Blues:
What’s Right With My Life:
1. I’m in an excellent training program and basically enjoying my work, despite the fact that I complain a lot.
2. When I’m at work, where I spend most of my waking hours, I’m with people who, for the most part, I like, some of whom I’m becoming friendly with.
3. In my non-waking hours, I’m in an apartment that I basically like. It’s not great, but it’s sufficient, and I tend to sleep pretty well because I’m not overly anxious, even though I have lots of reasons to be.
4. When I’m not working, I have some old friends around whom I get to see.
5. New York City is a great place to live with tons to do, and I’m taking a lot of advantage of being here. I went down to Manhattan today, my onlly day off for the next two weeks. Oh well.
6. I’m not depressed, something about which I worried when I came out here.
What’s Wrong With My Life:
1. I’m not with Karen, and I miss her a lot.
2. Even though I’ve made a few friends, I don’t have any really good friends here. I miss having good friends around whom I can call and talk to about the things that are troubling me.
3. I’m not wild about this neighborhood. As time goes by I find more and more that I do like, but basically it’s a kind of boring neighborhood that tends to roll up its sidewalks at about eight o’ clock.
4. I miss my family - my parents, my brother, his girlfriend, they’re all back in Boston. I used to see all of them very often; they were a source of great support, of great enjoyment.
5. I miss Boston. I really like it. It’s much more hassle-free than New York, a more sane and easy place to live, and far less crazy and bizarre.
6. Sometimes I wonder if I’m in a program that just has too god-damned much scut and is too god-damned big. Sometimes I wonder if the great downfall of this program is the fact that we rotate through too many fucking hospitals and we have to spend so much time and energy on just learning the mechanics of survival on all the different wards that there’s almost no time and energy left for stuff like relaxing, socializing, reading, sleeping, and just thinking constructively and thoughtfully about the patients.
End of excerpt. Will detail my own list next post.
So to continue with the rest of what I shall refer to as indelible truths of being a medical resident:
4) There is no time to pee. Generally you’ve held it for so long you should be able to taste it. Then by the time you can pee, it is like the Hoover Dam broke free.
5) You have recurrent fantasies of chucking your pager/phone into the ocean.
6) At least 50% of your bodily fluids have been replaced by coffee.
7) Scrubs »»»» professional attire.
8) There is always some intern in the program that everybody can’t stand. They are the lazy know-it-alls, likely a prelim, that will be going into some high paying field and often speak poorly about internists. If you can’t identify who it is, it might be you.
9) Intern year causes you to feel more like paper pusher than doctor. In fact, we likely the reason rainforests are in jeopardy.
10) If you had a nickel every time a nurse paged you about a patient’s constipation, you would be able to afford a new Porsche before the year’s end.
11) Yes patients are woken up every four hours for vital checks, lab draws and medications but regardless, they are getting more sleep in a night than any resident has had in a week.
That’s all I can think of for now. I’m sure I will be adding more later.