Monday, June 04, 2007

Musings on a Life Well Lived



One of my first patients today was a real live horse whisperer. This was our second and final appointment, and at the end of the appointment, he said - I'm really glad to have met you. You know, I'm a horse guy, and with horses, they read a lot into nonverbal cues. You gotta work to gain their trust, but once they trust you, they trust you. Well doc, just though you might wanna know that you give off good nonverbal cues and I fully trust you.

That made my morning.

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Am taking care of a nursing home patient who, at the end of our visit today, shared a website that he had written for prior to his becoming debilitated. Intrigued, I looked up the website and found out that said patient had been very well traveled and had a highly successful career. In addition, patient's wife was a very famous RN in her day.

Reading about them was very moving - they are two of the most down to earth, humble people, and in just meeting them, one would never be able to guess at the amount of life experience accumulated between the two of them. Or perhaps, it is because of the life experiences that they are who they are today. People like them are so inspiring.

This -- is why I love what I do.

Sometimes when the department politics get out of control, or when the paperwork or bureaucracy takes away from valuable patient care time, I wonder if I made the wrong career choice. Maybe I should have become a chaplain. I love to listen to patient stories - their struggles, their triumphs. I want to learn from their experiences and absorb their wisdom. I want to sit with them, and by the virtue of my presence as another human being, validate their life experiences. I want to be at the bedside of the terminally ill and of those for whom the silliness of the material world no longer matters, and I want to hear about what they still believe, and think, and value.

Days like today remind that one does not need a different job to make a difference. And they remind that it is a blessing to be working so closely with fellow souls...

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Sister is now starting out in her first job. She makes great money but has been surprised at how tedious the daily work grind is. She's thinking about switching to banking, because it "sounds more interesting." My only advice? That the day to day of every job will eventually become routine, mundane, and even "boring." The first surgery that one does is great, the second, just as great, but ask someone who's done ten thousand of them what they think of that procedure - "mundane" at best. But perhaps the key to staying interested in a job or a career is less the details of what one does, but the meaning one draws out of doing such a job. For me, the opportunity to work with and learn from patients far outweighs the negatives in medicine. Would that I never forget this. I hope that it continues to mean as much to me at the end of my career.

If so, it will have been a "career" well lived.

2 Comments:

Blogger Pieces of Mind said...

I like that you are interested in your patients as people, not just as cases to deal with. Perhaps that would make you a "patient whisperer"?

Thank you for visiting my blog; I like your writing very much!

5:40 PM  
Blogger wandering visitor said...

Hi Pieces of Mind!

"patient whisperer" is too lofty a title ;) - perhaps I've just had a recent string of "doctor whisperers" :)

Seriously though, I really enjoy learning from my patients, and hope to continue doing so for a long, long time.

Thanks for visiting!

6:28 PM  

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