Thursday, May 05, 2005

But Would You Do It Again?

Red State Moron posts an entry from the Mercury News today:

"The everyday grotesqueness of medicine often doesn't sink in until they are given hands-on experience in the field -- usually after they have already spent years -- and countless dollars -- pursuing a medical career.

So Santa Clara University is helping its students determine whether they're cut out for it early, long before they even enter medical school. Pre-med students who land a much-coveted spot in a special university program shadow doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains and business administrators at San Jose's O'Connor Hospital for the better part of an academic year.

They see births. And deaths. They learn how to remove a catheter and burp a baby. They watch the calming bedside manner of chaplains during a patient's final hours, and discuss how hospitals can keep financially afloat when caring for many uninsured and under-insured patients".

He asks:

“But do we need to help "students determine whether they're cut out for it early"? Does this accomplish the goal of recruiting the best candidates to medicine? Assuming we can agree on what constitutes the best.”

Most of the doctors I spend time with would say they didn’t really understand fully what they signed up for now that they’re physicians. Not that we don’t enjoy what we do. However, I would say that it’s much different than the glorious life I had expected. It’s tough, there’s a lot of stress, and yes, sometimes you even have to deal with all the disgusting stuff, like meconium landing on your shoes.

It’s the greatest job in the world and every day it’s more challenging than the other. Sometimes though, I do question it. Did I really understand the difficulties I would endure or was I blinded by societal expectations. My parents always told me how wonderful doctors have it, but they never mentioned the gory details.

But you know, spending time with physicians isn’t always detracting. I remember my mentors from medical school. They loved what they did, yes, even the parts that deal with human secretions, they loved those to. They inspired me to be the best physician even in times when they were tired and upset, and being taken advantage of.

In a way, when I’ll look back on my residency, many of my memories will be those few hours when being a doctor just didn’t feel so great. The times I felt inadequate to do the job but when I still had to. Those are the memories that stay with us. Pumping the chest of your favorite patient when you realize something went horribly wrong. Waking in the middle of the night to write a Tylenol order. Joking with the nurses about why they found it necessary to wake you for a Tylenol order.

I hope the students get to see the times when we have to succeed and yet, often, we fail. Those whom we helped will remember us as heroes. Those whom we failed will teach us another lesson in how to succeed. I do hope they see these moments of vulnerability because that is what a physician is; he is a compendium of all the triumphs and miseries, of all the victories and losses. That is life as a doctor in all its gruesome detail.

So, would I recommend that students spend time with real physicians before applying to medical school?

It just may be the best thing they ever did.

Whatever they decide!