The sweat coalesced on my forehead. I leaned forward to push the weight of my body into the wheel chair. I was terrified. Behind me strode the baffled parents with their arms full of coats and scarves. The young boy shrunk into the chair and balanced his IV’ed arm on the rest, trying not to disrupt the tubing that had been so painfully inserted.
I was lost. A week into my rotation as a volunteer in the pediatric emergency room, I was a child myself. I spent the first few days running labs and sitting with the desk person filing forms. But now a little one was being admitted. And I, fumbling between IV pole and wheel chair, was asked to transport the precious cargo to the medical floor.
I hadn’t yet ventured into the hospital. Now, not only was I horrified to be responsible for a living breathing child, but also had no idea how to wend my way through the confusing maze of elevators and corridors to the appropriate dropping off place.
It was the beginning of a lifetime. I could feel the breeze of the scrubbed technicians as they raced by, and whisked away down the hall. I took in the sites and sounds: the faded linoleum, aseptic breath of alcohol, and the murky lighting hiding the sacred altar of patient care. People lived and died here. It was a place of mercy and despair, faith and disappointment, a place for bodies to heal.
I’m not sure if I can track the evolution. When the fear of the volunteer became the anticipation of the student or the wonder of the resident. Things happened to me in hospitals. Whether the dreary VA or the high tech multi-lighted academic mecca, I grew and changed.
A nonreligious man, I prayed there. I cried there. I questioned everything I knew about myself, and came out on the other side different. Alive, scarred, and half the empathy pulled out of my bosom and stomped on.
Yet I was competent and able. I had a new understanding of life. For better or worse, I had become a doctor.
I can’t explain the affinity I have for hospitals. Like an old friend, I always feel something when walking through the electronic glass doors. Even the first time I enter a facility, I’m home.
The idea of practicing internal medicine and not seeing my own patients in the hospital is like agreeing to sever my own limb. It’s not compatible with my view of the profession.
So why does it feel like the winds of change are blowing us out of the hospital?
If you don’t like it, just use the hospitalists!
It’s like being evicted from my childhood home.