Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Doc's Role

Funny how our outlook changes as one becomes older.
During my undergrad years I held a raw and trite imagination of the heroic doctor: 'The heroic doctor' rushing into a trauma room  to literally save the dying child… rescuing the emaciated patient from the imminent brink of death by breaking open the chest and massaging the heart to restore bloodflow, etc. This 
scenario happening over and over (with the ER theme song in the background, ah).

For the past 3 weeks I've been a member of the Surgical Trauma team at a level one trauma center in Los Angeles. Oh, the things one gets to see....  from the stabbed reckless Hep C+ drunkard who decides to spit at us, to the stoic kid with multiple GSW's. It's amazing and thrilling to acutely save lives but, as contrite as it may sound, the excitement wanes as you become exhausted. Being on-call in the trauma service has led to 36hr days without any sleep. Suddenly the OR doesn't appear as exciting... Suddenly 'scrubbing in' becomes a taxing ritual...you are physically/emotionally crushed and begin to dread the next time your pager will beep. 

Perhaps one romanticizes the role of the physician/surgeon by focusing on how one saves lives every day without realizing the price the doctor pays -- time, family, and youth.Television shows are notorious for portraying the heroic physician/surgeon role, and perhaps I’m guilty of watching too many episodes of ER during my premedical years.  

The more realistic and fitting role for me, as I see it today, is that of a healer who works primarily to improve the quality of life of patients and who emphasizes prevention. This is the role which appeals most to me. To some, like my formal self, 'management and prevention' may lessen the romanticism of medicine... but i grin... Internal Medicine is sexy.

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