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.
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.