I have a wonderful doctor at Princess Margaret Hospital. She is incredibly bright, competent, humane and approachable. Her waiting room is always packed, as I have mentioned before, because of her generosity in seeing as many people as possible. I have had her respond to an email at 8:00 on a Friday night. I feel very lucky to have this doctor.
I sometimes think about her role in assessing, diagnosing, and treating hundreds of patients.How does it feel to break the news to someone that they have a serious illness, or that the illness has returned or that the treatment is something incredibly toxic and debilitating? What is it like to lose a patient that you’ve tried so hard to cure?
What about dealing with a wide variety of patient personalities? There are patients that are angry with their fate and take it out on the doctor. There are the patients that are meek and don’t speak up for themselves. What about the patients who don’t speak English well and want to understand? Then there are those patients who want a lot of attention, that are high maintenance. Does she ever wish she could “fire” some of her patients?
Being a doctor is also being an administrator. You need to manage staff, deal with the hospital bureaucracy, negotiate with the drug companies, and seek compliance from lab staff. When all you want to do is treat patients, there is a great deal of paper work to make it happen.
What is the stress involved? How does that stress manifest in physical symptoms? Who cares for the doctor? What are her strategies for dealing with this stress?
Of course I don’t really know what it is like for my doctor – I can only guess. I’m sure there are a myriad of other issues that affect doctors. Not being in an acute health crisis, I have the luxury of stepping back to look at my doctor’s situation and try to walk in her shoes. Perhaps it will make me a less demanding patient, perhaps it will change some aspect of my behaviour, or perhaps it will just make me appreciate her more.
It is for this reason that I think it so important to include the perspective of doctors as part of this anthology. Otherwise, it’s all guessing.
Below is a link to an interesting article about a project that pairs doctors with writers. Each writer helps coach their doctor to write as a way of expressing the emotions associated with their work. It sounds like the doctors have achieved enormous benefit from this work on “finding their voice”. As the author says:
Confronted by the power of poems and stories, their own and others, doctors have been forced to pause to make a variety of evaluations about themselves and their profession, primarily.
Read more about it to get the details on the project and its benefits. http://medhum.med.nyu.edu/blog/?p=150
Any doctors out there wish to comment?
PS – I haven’t forgotten about nurses – that’s for another day.