In the past 5 months I’ve started so many blog posts. I’ve finished so few. I can just never find the words to express what I’m really feeling. The experiences I’ve had since becoming a doctor are so emotional, so exciting, so sad, so thrilling, so crazy, and so personal that I usually just give up trying to communicate them. And I’ve come to realize that although I started this blog to help others understand what it’s like going to medical school and being a resident, there is no way to truly tell you what it’s like to be a doctor unless you experience it for yourself.
In the past few months as a doctor I’ve diagnosed people with cancer. I’ve told family members that their loved one is going to die. I’ve dealt with alcoholics and drug-seekers and addicts. I’ve performed lumbar punctures and placed central lines. I’ve taken care of people with AIDS and Valley Fever and Tuberculosis and Neurosyphilis and GI bleeds and Endocarditis and Lupus. I’ve taken care of patients with delirium and dementia and schizophrenia. And I’ve seen people die. Too many people.
I hate carrying the burden. But I can’t share the burden, either. I hate to write depressing blog post after depressing blog post because who wants to read about that kind of stuff? Who wants to hear about people dying? I know I don’t. But this is my job. This is my life. And it’s hard not to get depressed seeing and taking care of sick people every day.
And so I press backspace. If only I could delete the memories from my mind as easily as I erase the words that I type. Because it’s hard to forget when you lose a patient. It’s hard not to worry about patient’s when they leave the hospital. It’s hard being a doctor.
Every day that goes by I feel like I know less and less. Even as I gain more experience, the more I realize that I don’t know. And sometimes I just don’t feel good enough. I don’t feel smart enough. Sometimes I feel totally inadequate at being a doctor.
But the other day I sat down at the nurses’ station to use a computer while I waited for an interpreter to see a patient. And one of the nurses sat down next to me and started to make small talk. He told me that I was doing a great job. I tried to brush it off and said, “Well, I’m pretty good at pretending.” And he said, “No. When you work here long enough you can see those that sink or swim. And you’re handling your own very well. You’re doing a really great job.”
He could have just said it to be nice. Or maybe he was lying. But it was a really simple thing that made my day. Being an intern is so difficult. It’s like being thrown into a job where you’re supposed to be responsible and knowledgeable but you have no idea what you’re doing. It’s scary. And challenging. And exhausting. And some days it’s just awful. But that was a nice thing to hear.
Somehow I’ve survived my first five months of being an intern. It’s scary that the year is almost halfway over – to think that in 7 months I’ll be a senior resident with even more responsibilities. I worry that I won’t be ready. Then again, I don’t feel ready to be doing what I’m doing now. This month I’ll be working in the outpatient clinic. I’ll get normal hours and weekends off. Which, considering that I’ve had 2 weekends off since June, sounds almost like a vacation. I’m hoping I can rest a little bit and reenergize. I’ll still have 6 months of intern year to get to, so it should be a nice break to focus my mind again. After working 5 straight months in the hospital it will be nice to see patients who aren’t so sick. And maybe I’ll have some less depressing things to blog about!