So I’ve officially been pulling off this whole “doctor” thing for a month! It has gone very fast, but yet it feels like forever. I’ve gotten less sleep, skipped more meals, and cried more times that I can count. But I’ve survived.
It’s hard to describe the feelings I’ve been experiencing this past month. Amazement – that I’m actually a doctor and I get to take care of patients. Frustration – at my lack of knowledge. Anger – at the unfairness of life. Gratitude – that I have my health when so many others don’t. Sadness – that I can’t save everyone and that I have to watch so much suffering and death. Happiness – that I am blessed to do what I do. Doubt – that I picked the right career. Fear – that I don’t have what it takes to do this for a lifetime. Exhaustion – beyond belief.
Some days I come home so excited to tell my husband about my day, the cool things I’ve seen, the procedures I’ve performed. And other days I am silent, because how do I tell him I spent the last hour of my day listening to the last dying breaths of a patient my own age. But everyday I carry the burden of my patients’ sufferings with me. Even when I have a day off, I find myself constantly checking charts from home, making sure the right orders are in and that my patients are still alive. I lay in bed at night worrying that I’ve forgotten something, or that something will be missed while I’m not there.
Some days I want so much to scream, to cry, to hit something, someone, anything. I thought I knew what I was signing up for when I decided to become a doctor. But I had no idea. Not even an inkling of how hard it would be to do this job. On so many levels. I underestimated the physical and intellectual challenges that being a doctor would bring. I had no idea the mental exhaustion it takes to work 15 hour days over and over and over again.
I was once asked by a physician during residency interviews if I believed in the concept of Informed Consent. Of course, I replied. Then he explained that he believed informed consent to be a myth. Because no one can ever be truly informed. So when we describe a procedure and the risks involved to a patient and they give informed consent, it’s a fallacy because they don’t have the medical knowledge required to truly understand the procedure and what they’re agreeing to.
I think in many ways he was right. If I had truly known what being a doctor was going to be like, I wouldn’t have signed up for this. And that’s the honest to goodness truth.
But I did sign up for. I signed my life away, and it’s too last to take it back. So for now I’m going to try to take a nap before my night shift tonight. I’ll try not to lay awake thinking about my patients, even though I know I will anyway. And I’ll probably have strange dreams about blood transfusions and horses in the ICU (yes, this is what I dream about nowadays).
1 month of Intern year down – 11 to go.