I stood outside the ward that day, feeling a little uneasy. A few days ago, I received some unexpected news from my doctor. My mind sifted through the possibilities and directions this might bring me. When can I see a doctor to discuss this? What does it mean? As my brain navigates through the unknown, my body doesn’t voluntarily obey either. I had some constant pain that day that prevented me from standing for long periods of time.
But, I know that, with all the turmoil in my brain and body, I have to refocus to provide care to the patients I am responsible for. It’s time to apply those specialization skills we’ve learned as physicians. Once you open the doorknob on the ward, your personal life is put on the back burner, and the patient is your first priority. Most patients come to you at a time of their own pain and vulnerability, and as physicians, we should provide them with the best care and time they need.
This is not ‘however, this changes the fact that many of us are dealing with struggles in our own lives while we work. Some days can be harder than others.
The day I got bad news from the doctor. The day my feet didn’t cooperate, withstood. My grandmother was seriously ill that day and had surgery in a hospital a few miles away. The day my daughter started daycare, she cried relentlessly as she got off the bus. Those were my heartbroken days. However, I know I owe my patients to showing up and giving them the care they deserve. About their toddler also received a life-changing diagnosis. I looked them in the eyes and honestly told them “it’s going to be okay”. They believed in me and thanked me with a smile. I remember the day I convinced a desperate teenager that she was important to those around her, even though it didn’t feel like that at the time. She believed me and called me an angel. I remember the day my feet wouldn’t let me stand up, so I was sitting in the room with my parents and I had to tell them some bad news. We grieve together. By the end, my own pain seemed less worrisome.
I realized that when I was struggling with my worries, diverting my attention and listening to others saved me. The stories of my patients, their acceptance of situations, their bravery in the face of adversity, their reluctance to give up, their smiles, and their patience are the armor I need to get through the day. I need their sympathy. Despite not realizing it, they passed it on to me.
Despite the ups and downs of opinion around the world, medicine is a noble profession and healthcare providers are heroes. They show up to their patients time and time again, giving them the best, often battling their own personal struggles at the same time.
But I’m also here to say that my patients have been my heroes in recent weeks. They gave me hope and saved my courage when I needed it most. Their bravery gave me courage, and their gratitude gave me hope that the work I was doing had meaning. I need to keep fighting for it.
Saba Fatima, MD, is a Pediatric Resident.
This article appeared in KevinMD.