There is a limit to what people can take. In my short time as a doctor I’ve seen a lot of people who have reached their limit. Their body, their mind, their spirit has had all it can take. I’ve met people whose body hasn’t reached its’ limit, but their spirit has. And I’ve seen people whose body has reached its limit, but their spirit is still going strong.
This month has probably been my most difficult month as an intern. This month I have been rotating at a different hospital. I started off the month by getting sick with a bad cold. Of course I didn’t want to call in sick my first day at a new hospital, so I toughened up and pushed through. The commute to this hospital is more than double what I’m used to, so the hours have been long. I’ve been getting up about 4:30 every morning and trying to be in bed before 8:30 every night to get a decent nights sleep, especially trying to recover from being sick. And I’m really outside my comfort zone. It’s a different hospital with a different computer system and different policies and different practices, and it’s been a steep learning curve. Meanwhile I’ve had some really, really sick patients who I’m responsible for taking care of, while struggling to take care of myself.
But this month I’ve met some amazing individuals. Some amazing physicians. Some amazing patients. And some amazing physician patients who have reminded me that every day is a gift. They remind me that even doctors get sick, and that good health isn’t guaranteed to anyone.
One evening I was leaving the hospital quite late, and I stopped to see one of my patients before I headed home for the evening. Being a physician himself, he felt compelled to have me pull up a chair so he could give me a lecture on physician burnout. I appreciated the advice, but couldn’t help but see the irony in spending 30 minutes at the end of a long day talking about physician burnout. But his advice was this: find something in life that makes you happy and find time to do it. And if you need help, never be afraid to ask someone.
Some days I feel as if my mind, my body, and my spirit are at their limit. Some mornings I can’t imagine getting through the day. It takes so much energy and effort to get out of bed and spend the entire day taking care of others. But then I see my patients. Those whose bodies can take no more, but their spirit drags them onward. They refuse to give up, no matter how terrible the odds. They inspire me. And I know I haven’t reached my limit. Not yet. They’re the reason I can get through the day.
Being a doctor is such a strange profession. Every day is new and exciting. Every day I meet new patients who teach me something. No day is predictable, and no two patients are alike. Some days I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into. And some days I can’t imagine life any other way.
I feel so extraordinarily blessed to do what I do, and there is no limit to what life has in store.