Saturday, February 02, 2008

Un-Doctor Esoteria

First time visitors probably scratch their heads in confusion as they go through my posts. Those who come to my blog expecting a real-life, blow by blow narratives akin to House or ER are bound to be disappointed by the lack of blood, gore, and heart-stopping medical drama perceived to be part and parcel of every doctor's life.

Despite the lack of medical posts, my life as a resident in training has not been uninteresting. I've participated in my fair share of great-for-TV medical moments in the course of my medical training. After working in a charity hospital in a Third World country, I have enough "When I was a resident" anecdotes to last me a lifetime. Code Blues conducted on the hospital floor, dramatic emergency blind intubations - who said only surgeons had all the fun?

However, my blog, like me, is presently in a state of flux.

Medical training is a time capsule until one is unceremoniously kicked out of it. It may help one grow in medical knowledge, but it stunts everything else. After nine years (4 years of medical school, 1 year of internship, 1 year studying for the boards, 3 years of residency training) of immersing myself in the medical world almost to the exclusion of everything else, I am now in between jobs - and feeling unexpectedly free. This state of relative idleness is too new to be boring. I am finally taking a well-deserved break and trying to navigate "normal" for the first time in a long time. Recently liberated doctors in training are starving for normal life.

This is still a medical doctor's blog - albeit an aimless one, at least for the next few weeks or months.

Don't get me wrong, I do have some career plans... I'm just not quite ready to talk about them yet. At the moment, I just want to concentrate on relaxing and having a little bit of non-medical fun while waiting for the next phase of my medical life to start.

* * * *

"Would you encourage your children to become doctors?" is a question that frequently comes up in conversation when I get together with my other doctor friends.

It may come as a surprise to non-medical people but most of the time our collective answer is actually a resounding, "No."

I would be supportive of my kid's choice to become a doctor if that was what she really, really wanted. On the other hand, I would be the last one to convince her to go into medicine if it wasn't on her list.

No, I am not contradicting my earlier post about liking being a doctor. But I'm also going to be the first to say that the journey is a very tough one. It can get so tough that even those who come in convinced this is what they want to be for the rest of their lives have second thoughts about what they are doing.

Sleepless nights, the physical exhaustion of going on 24 hour duties, emotional stress of dealing with life and death up close and personal, enormous responsibility - they all take their toll. We survive from day to day by ignoring these almost unrealistic demands on our time and our psyches and accepting them as a fact of our lives. But we can't help but see the stark contrast between our lifestyles and those of our contemporaries who have chosen other careers.

The intellectual gratification and emotional rewards are enormous. But the financial rewards? Non-existent until late in your career - if they come at all. As our consultants put it, hitting it big in medical practice takes more than brains, skills, and a good bedside manner. Just like in any career, being in the right place at the right time is also a huge - sometimes key - factor to success.

Choosing to become a doctor is not the same as deciding to take a job offer in the corporate world. By committing to a medical career you give your tacit consent to be changed, irrevocably, forever. It's not a job that you can shrug off when quitting time hits and you hang your stethoscope on a hook in the callroom. They key word here is "becoming." It's something that insidiously works itself into your consciousness as a result of your experiences until it is seared into your definition of who you are.

Would I willingly take that journey again, knowing what I know now? My answer: I don't know. It still surprises me sometimes that I have actually made it this far. But I don't kid myself into believing that I am all done.

For a career doctor, the process of becoming is a lifetime one.


Manggy said...

Wise words, ma'am :) Don't worry, I don't mind reading about your semi-normal life... It's a bit refreshing. It's uncomplicated (as of now). There are wonderful stories, scary stories, and heartwarming stories, yes, but I'm saving them a bit at a time, till maybe I can associate some dish with it, heh heh :)

I think 90% of people bragging about their medical exploits are insecure, and 99% of people criticizing the way you live your life are bitter, whether they know it or not. That may sound cynical, but I'm convinced that it's part of gross human nature to want to feel superior. It's a constant battle (which I've yet to write about), and the one that prevents us from truly appreciating others and what we can learn from each other.

I am not sure I would encourage my kids (HA! If only.) to go into medicine. If they really wanted to. If it's not to please me or anyone else, but because it's in their heart and will to serve.

morks said...

yeah same here, i don't mind reading something different. it's not everyday you see a real doctor blogging :) i've always thought medical practitioners didn't have any life other than the hospital. hehe. no offense ha.

you know what, i wanted to be a doctor when i was a kid. no particular specialization, but i just thought i could be a missionary doctor. now that the realities of gore, thick medical books, and no social life whatsoever has scared me to death, i don't know if i still have what it takes to take that journey of becoming. i've realized that yeah, being a doctor is a lifetime thing. and that's much to admire, really. but you know what, whatever pleases you and at the end of the day makes you feel happy and content, you should go for that.

of course the investment's there, but then again, if you ask me (and im a very impulsive person kasi) it won't be worth it if you can't be as effective and fulfilled as you would be doing something that you're meant for. :)


MegaMom said...

As someone who has changed careers a couple of times, I can say that in spite of it all, being a doctor will always be a part of me.
However, I refuse to let it define me. I am so much more than just being "a doctor".
I hope you find what you're looking for Claire. :)