It’s endemic. There are lots of unhappy and mean doctors out there. And I’m not just talking about the orthopod who screams at his staff. Or my childhood dentist. Or that proctologist (ewwwww.)
Recently, my friend’s mom told me about this disorder of frustrated arrogance comorbid with entitled inhumanity that often begins somewhere between first and second year of medical school and incubates into a full blown infection by the end of residency.
While I don’t quite hate sick people yet, my head does have a tendency to swell after passing anatomy rounds and biochem exams. Frighteningly, 60% of doctors would retire if they could, according to Forbes… but since they can’t, we still have to put up with their snarling over the burdensome task of willingly treating sick people who requested their services. How dare someone want to see them!
Pushing patients around has given me a new perspective on my role in medicine. I hold the privileged title of surgical orderly, transporter, bottom on the totem pole. But even the least of these sees a lot of patient contact–guiding medicated ones to their beds, calming their nervousness, talking past their worst fears.
I can do lots of things but, like today, my boss just needed someone to organize anesthesia labels. The patient just needed someone to hold up a blanket in front of the door which we couldn’t get to close as she was getting back in her bed. Maybe doctors would be less epileptic if they met people where they’re needed.
It all gets old. At least that is what my mother noted about practicing nurse anesthesia. But nonetheless she loves what she does. What makes her atropine pushing any more exciting than that of an anesthesiologist?
She draws shapes with betadine before inserting an epidural. She sings her patients to sleep. She takes cardiac arrests in stride, prays a COPD-er through waking up, and thinks her way out of paper bags all day long.
Ok, so I love my mom. But I’m just saying that finding joy in the mundane is an antidote to the doctor disease.
But what if you can’t see it?
Medical school teaches us to gather the chief complaint first. Transporting only permits me to see the person. I know their surgical procedure and nothing except what’s picked away by small talk. In their answers I catch glimpses of myself, bad and good. The little joys appear as my humanity is reflected back off their own hopes, dreams, and struggles. Bit by bit, petit à petit, the curmudgeon in me makes room for a hopeful doc indeed.