Dear Patient

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I was once asked by a patient, “Doc, hindi kaba napapagod sa trabaho mo?” (Doctor, don’t you ever get tired of your work?)

It was 3 in the morning at PGH, and I was pushing a stretcher where my pre-eclamptic patient laid, from the OB Admitting Section to the Perinatology Office for cardiotocometry. I did not know how to answer; instead I was left into tears.

That moment reminded me of my days at Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital where I spent my junior internship as a medical student –a hospital which I think is one of the best training grounds for aspiring doctors. When I was a junior intern, I cannot remember the number of times I have asked myself questions similar to the one asked by my patient: “Why am I here? Why am I depriving myself of sleep, food, and comfort that the rest of my non-medical friends are enjoying? And what? End up being scolded during conferences for not doing enough?”

Social scientists believe that people are commercialistic in general -we do one thing to gain something. So this thought made me ask myself “What’s in it for us, doctors? What wakes us up every single day, makes us wear that white coat, grab our stethoscope and rush to the hospital?”

It’s definitely not money –because we would’ve earned a lot more and faster in the corporate world.

It’s definitely not the spotlight –because the spotlight in medical training means getting on the podium and answering all sorts of questions from different medical consultants. This exercise often makes us, doctors, realize that no matter how hard we study, we still haven’t learned enough, and that we would always miss that one piece of information which we think was irrelevant only to be told that it is very pertinent.

It’s definitely not the hierarchy –because we all know that you’ll be bad-mouthed by your juniors if you treat them badly, and how the nurses can tear up parts of your patients’ charts if you’re being a bitch to them.

So what is in Medicine? What makes us endure the training? What makes us prioritize our patients more than our own families? And the question at the end of the day: Is this all worth it?

I can’t answer these questions for all doctors, but I’d love to share my thoughts by writing a letter in reply to the query of my patient.

Dear Patient,

I am sorry if I wasn’t able to answer your question immediately. I was just too tired, too hungry, and pre-occupied by a lot of things. But that question is too memorable for it has been asked by a lot of people, even by myself. So to answer your question:

Yes, I get tired -for I am also human.

Yes, I get hungry -for I am not exempted from the basic physiology of the gastrointestinal system.

Yes, I stink –for I am already 30+ hours post duty, but I still have to review your chart, make notes, and update my seniors / residents.

Yes, my handwriting sucks–for I have copied lecture notes from conferences, made tons of prescriptions and laboratory requests, written history, physical examination findings, and incoming / outgoing notes –all within a day’s work.

Yes, I may have to answer the call by my parents while pushing your wheelchair to the radiology department –for I have not seen them for months now.

Yes, I maybe jolly at times and quiet most of the time –for I just had 3 hours of sleep last night to study your case for today’s pre-operative conference.

Yes, I am saddened every time you tell me that you have no money for your medical procedure –for I will again be forced to spend part of my allowance / income just to have your laboratories done.

Yes, you may have seen me with tears as I walked out of our conference room –for I have just been reprimanded by my seniors for not looking for a journal that supports my decision in a dilemma I have encountered in preparing your treatment plan.

I know that you are going through a lot of things during your hospital stay. But may you never forget that we, your doctors, also go out of our comfort zones and give all that we can to provide you the best care possible.

And you know what’s the best thing about us, your doctors? It’s the fact that if ever we get burned out today, tomorrow is another day –another day for us to wake up in the wee hours of the morning, brew our coffee, hit our books, rush to the hospital, present you in conferences, and finally see you during our rounds.

All of these simply for the joy of seeing you get better.

People often say that doctors play god. But in all honesty, we do not play god; rather, we allow ourselves to be used by God.

All that we ask from you is that you pray for us, your doctors, that we will never get tired of maintaining that sacred connection between God, ourselves, and you –for He was, is, and will always be the True Healer, and because He is the only nourishment that can sustain us in our quest towards making you as healthy as possible.

Thank you.

Love,

Your Doctors

105 thoughts on “Dear Patient

  1. Reblogged this on Open Notes and commented:
    I came across this heartfelt blog entry today which was shared by one of my friends on facebook. Thank you for writing this letter. May God always bless us, doctors, as we become instruments of God’s healing.

  2. i am a public health physician. i had been serving at the rural settings for 18years now. i gave up a good life abroad to serve my community. you touched my heart bullseye, in fact, i cannot write this comment very well because i am now teary eyed by your story. how we experience this at the rural health is more frustrating. walang marunong magtanong ng ganyan samin.

    i seldom have my lunch on time because of the long line of patients from the inner barangays, (at kung magla-lunch ay nagrereport naman ang nurse at midwife sa mga fieldworks nila), and after attending to demanding patients whose relatives ay gusto pang sila ang mauna kasi “sponsored” patients sila, or taga “loob” sila or kamag-anak nila ay taga “itaas”. ganun din kung sila man ay may kailangang magpa-certify ng absent from school, absent from work, na di naman medical ang rason ng pag-absent. andyan din ang magcertify ng death, na di naman naging pasyente ko, pero dahil sa LOCAL GOVT CODE of 1992, trabajo daw namin yun! ok lang, may guidelines naman on verbal autopsy eh! ahhh, at oncall ka pa during disasters, at kahit gabi na para mag-postmortem sa mga victims ng karahasan… awa ang nauuna, trabajo ang pangalawa!

    ang sweldo namin? wala sa ikatlo ng isang doctor pang-hospital.
    ang tension namin? sobra pa sa senaryo sa hospital: kapag may na-dengue, ang blame nasa environmental health. kapag nagka-epidemya o tumaas ang cases sa barangay, ang blame nasa health planning!!!! lalo na sa legalidad, di pwede maging corrupt…

    ang masakit nyan, irereklamo ka pa kapag di mo sila kaagad naasikaso, at nasa fb ka pa- masama ba na ako nama’y maglunch din at magaatend din sa personal needs ko like, TOOTHBRUSHING, make wiwi, call/text my family, irereklamo mo pa??? sayang, di ko natutuhang mag-laro sa fb o mag-inom sa oras ng katungkulan, sana’y may magandang dahilan ng pagrereklamo mo!

    hayyyy,
    nakakasawa na. nakakaumay na! wala ka namang makuhang appreciation man lang…. di ka pa kayang ipagtanggol ng Boss. sobra na talaga ang mga kababayan ko!

    sana, maunawaan nyo na kaming mga doctor ay kagaya nyo rin- pumipila din, at namamatayan din ng mga kamag-anak. lalo’t higit kaming mga doctor ay may katawan din, may familya din, may buhay at kalusugan din na dapat iniingatan!

    1. Hi Maam Rosalina.

      I deeply feel you. And I’m sure there are thousands more feeling the way exactly that you do. Cge lang, God has always placed us to where we are now for a higher purpose. Yes, nakakapagod talaga but let’s try to focus on the fact na tayo ay nabigyan ng napakagandang pagkakataon at oportunidad na makatulong sa iba.

      Oo may mang-aabuso, pero hayaan mona at mag-konsentreyt nalg tayo sa mga bagay na positibo kagaya ng mga ngiti ng pasasalamat na ating nakukuha sa ating mga kapwa. :p

      Will be praying for you and your family, Maam Rosalina. God bless you. :)

      1. i admire your patience, your devotion to serve them. your sacriices for yourself and your family.. sana isang araw magising na mga kababayan mo at makita nila lahat ng kabutihan na ginagawa mo sa kanila.

    2. I’m very proud of you Dra Rosalina, bow ako sa mga rural health physicians for being dedicated to their work and depriving themselves of so many things just to fulfill their commitment to the community and their pledge to uphold the hypocratic oath. Not everything can be measured by money but it’s more of a feeling of happiness once your sacrifices are recognized by the people you serve

  3. As a mother of somebody who wants to become a doctor, I have and can only say, “I cannot ever study medicine”, as I look at the hours my daughter invests as she reads, studies and stay out late to do tasks for her course.
    I laud this doctor and other doctors who painstakingly perform their noble task, not for money or anything else but to help.

    Marami pang bigas na kakainin at mga walang tulog na gabi at araw na mangyari sa buhay ng anak ko pero this I can say despite all these hardships she has to hurdle, “We your parents will help you become the doctor you want to be – BY GOD’s GRACE!

    God bless you Doc.

  4. Thank you very much for sharing this touching truth-laden letter-indeed we have chosen a profession full of sacrifices and service and our only consolation most of the time is when we see our patients healed. We may not be awarded fairly in our lifetime but Our Almighty Lord reward us soon.
    Keep up the excellent work and Go on BE A PHYSICIAN!

  5. such beautiful thoughts from a young blood MD. Can i re post it. Cant believe, I was able to hurdle such path myself. Looking back fr years of daily 7-7 hrs lectures followed by jr internship/clerkship then years again of IM residency training in a Reg’l Medical Center,indeed twas worth all the sacrifices to be of service for the Filipino patients. Not sure though if I can be able to repeat the whole process again here abroad…I feel that the youthful energy, idealism and passion have long been gone. Thank you for sharing this, it may be all that i need to rekindle it and be inspired again.

  6. A very humbling read. May I post on my wall to help myself and others understand what doctors go through everyday as they save lives. Thanks, doc!

  7. Kudos sa inyo doc! God bless you more! Saludo ako sa mga katulad niyong doctor. May God use us as his healing hands for our patients… a physiotherapist here.

  8. Hi Fred, hope you are fine and things as well. Your blog is so touching but i have read it the first time when i reviewed the up coming Horizon …got dismayed though when it became viral in the social media under the name of Astrologo before the magazine comes out. Glad to know that this is originally yours. I am proud of you! Hope a disclaimer is on the way. God bless!

  9. Thank you so much for this post. The sentiments and aspirations of doctors are expressed fully and completely in your letter. I’ve been there and surely all doctors have gone through these experiences, too. I hope and pray that my children would soon follow this path that we’ve chosen. God bless us all!

  10. Wow! Fred, read this cos Twas reposted by my frend…. Andami na fans mo! :) I remembered CL as wel. Im sure ur doing superb there, b well always. God bless

  11. I agree with you my dear doctor. I was also trained in PGH. What you’ve been will make you not only a GOOD doctor but a compassionate, Stronger person facing realities of life. Good luck with your journey & God bless ours patients.

  12. After more than 30 yrs of medical practice, i have found somebody who quite expressed the experiences we had gone through and still undergoing. People do tend to see doctors as intelligent robots. Just work work work with maximum efficiency. He must be like God… Always present when they are sick, always make the right diagnosis, do the right treatment, but never ask for compensation.

  13. i’m still a student and even now, i’ve been constantly asked by friends if its tiresome.. i couldn’t answer right away. just a smile and a shrug.
    i couldn’t agree more with this blog entry. and it just hits the right spot in my heart and soul.

  14. I wished to be a doctor. But we cant we can’t afford, but such a hearth touching message, i feel you i really did feel you, eventhough im a nurse, yours is times 3 to our work, but in the end we surrender our life to GOD and thank you all doctors and pray for all of you as well!.

  15. I found an inspiration through this blog… I’m a 1st year med student and starting to feel the pressure and demands of this course… I sometimes feel giving up, but after reading this, it makes me realize how fortunate I am to learn all this things so in return I can serve others.. I know God has a purpose why we are chosen too be of his servant to others… I’m looking forward to your other blogs doc that will inspire us to becoming a good doctors in the future..

  16. I’m a student nurse as of now, though I’m still far from where you are now, I can still relate to your story Doc. And I really admire how you’ve come up with this blog. So inspiring and really it shows the goodness in you. I used to complain how ‘illegible’ the doctor’s penmanship is, but you made me understood why. I really look up to you doctors not just for enduring these stuff but for being passionate in everything you do especially in taking good care of your patients and saving many lives. You’re one of a kind, Doc! God bless all the works of your hands.

  17. We’re a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community.
    Your site offered us with valuable information to work on. You’ve done an impressive job and our entire community will be grateful to you.

  18. in the end, it’s all worth it! It’s the tears, sweat, sleepless nights and hunger that makes us learn not only to be good doctors but also to be a good & God fearing person. &&&& it’s not about the money that makes me love our job. It’s the feeling that at the end of the day, our patients trust us and they believe in us :)

  19. Everything said in your post is the reality of being an MD….. I can relate to that,,I had adopted to that lifestyle, and I start missing it during long breaks. But its worth it, once a patient tells you” Salamat doc at gumaling ako dahil sa iyo”…

  20. When a Lola of a charity patient of mine who lived in the payatas dump site ,approach me after his son got well after enduring several months of chemotherapy from osteosarcoma of the femur she told me, with total conviction , “Doktor Ikaw ang pinakamagaling na Doktor sa buong mundo!
    Of course the statement is totally UNTRUE . But being appreciated that way, takes away all the hardships (even for just a split second) of becoming a doctor – making rounds in ungodly hours, inadequate compensation, sleepless nights studying, even giving financial aid out of your own pockets.You can see from the Lola’s eyes that she was absolutely convinced of what she says but you absolutely know for sure it was not true. But all I can do is say is “Salamat PO” so you would not hurt her feelings. It is The small things that really makes you happy.

  21. And this is why I salute all the physicians out there. From their dedication to sacrifice to hard work. Being a doctor, I believe, is the most noble profession that ever exists. It gives us the sense of fulfillment and achievement whenever we get to help other people. Thank you for writting this blog for this motivated and inspired me again to go to med school. More power and may God bless you, Doc! 😊

  22. Dear Doc Fred,
    Thank you for inspiring me through this letter/story. I’m 1st yr Medical Student, and I’m lucky, because I found your site that may boost my resistance towards med school. I badly need it. I don’t know what and how should I do to pass this 1st yr level in Medicine. I thought I’m still in the state of culture shock. cause I graduated in my nursing school way back 2011 and worked for almost 2 yrs. At first, I’m really excited and very eager about med school and go to class everyday, specially 1st month in med school. As the time goes by, I’m become afraid and worried everyday and everytime. How can I pass through this kind of feelings?? What should I do Doc??

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