My life as a Malaysian doctor in the United States.
Friday, January 12, 2007
As I sit at my office desk now, my shoulders are shrugged, my eyes strained, my head and heart a bit heavy.
As a physician, some things bother me more than others. One, obviously, is when you screw up, something everyone does once in a while, but is less than acceptable amongst doctors (perhaps, because some see us as superhuman?).
Another, as is today's case, is when you can't help your patient. Despite your best intent, despite the technological, scientific advances in the last decade. This brings to mind the conversation I had with my sis Caryn 2 days ago when she was upset by a patient being forced to a nursing home.
It's hard to describe how this feels, unless you already understand. It's a deep-rooted, heavy, gnawing, twisted feeling deep within your chest. You feel guilt. Like you've let the patient down, especially if they flew all the way from Texas to for treatment. You feel disappointed and humbled, that although medicine can work near-miracles, we're clearly not quite there yet. You feel stupid, for you clearly don't know the answer to their problem (no one does). Perhaps a small part of you (God forgive me for saying this) feels thankful that it's the patient with the disease and not your family. But really, something like this just messes up your day. I had big plans for today; complete a big part of a paper I'm working on, review some charts, study. But now, all I feel like doing is to go home, crawl into some hole with a stiff drink, and go to sleep.
Thankfully, it's the weekend. And one piece of advice a senior gave me during internship that's sustained me through the most horrible of calls: Even the worst day will eventually end.
Someone once said that the physician's role is not to cure, but to heal. For we can't cure everything, but if we do our jobs right we can heal anyone.
I did all I could just now. I shook his hand. Held on a bit longer. And wished him good luck.