I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile, and finally, am going to spill some “secrets” about me and my colleagues.
We are in debt. I mean, real debt. We are in debt. I mean, real debt. It actually costs most of us almost 1 million dollars to become your doctor.
It has taken us a long time to get here.
Let’s do some math. 4 years of college + 4 years of medical school + 5 years of surgery training + 2 years of fellowship = a long time and saying goodbye to my 20s. While my friends were going to clubs, getting married and taking vacations, I was busy trying to learn about microbiology, genetics, and anatomy. So, although we “appreciate” Jenny McCarthy’s medical degree from Google University, please listen to your real doctor.
We hate when you ask us when you can go smoke. The answer is never.
Being a doctor is often like being a parent. We have to have the hard conversations that can often lead you to not liking us. And that is OK. Yes, just like your mom tells you, “We are doing this because we care about you.” Let’s face the facts, almost 70 percent of the United States is overweight or obese, and that is not healthy. This means, as the person who is supposed to care most about your health, we have to talk to you about it. Remember when you didn’t take your seizure medications and then wrecked your car? Yes, we have to talk about that. You are addicted to your pain medication. Yep, we have to talk about that, too.
We joke about some pretty gross things. Poop, snot, amniotic fluid. Nothing is immune or off limits to our often very warped sense of humor. If you happen to overhear us, you will probably think we are all a little crazy. However, with what we see on the daily, we got to find humor somewhere.
We make really good secretaries. Just kidding. In fact, upon reading this, my assistant is started laughing maniacally. But, we do a ton of paperwork. Out of a 12-hour workday, up to 4 of those hours will be devoted to writing notes, signing orders, filling out insurance paperwork, and returning phone calls. Let’s do some more math. 40 patients in the hospital to see (which is an average for me) x 6 minutes to document the patient’s concerns, my physical exam, lab and/or radiology results, and my plan for that day = 4 hours. Don’t forget to add in that I spend a large portion of my day in the operating room. Unfortunately, there is this new found belief that if it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen. All of these factors combined create an atmosphere that is paper-centered, not patient-centered. And we hate it. We went through umpteen years of school and training (see above) to take care of you, not fill out forms.
Our families sacrifice so we can take care of yours. I was on call the night my husband tore his biceps tendon in half. I had to tell him to take ibuprofen, put ice on it, and try to not pick up our 18-month-old son until I could get home. The next day. Although, our families understand this most of the time, it can still be hard on them. And us.
We take you home with us. As one of my own mentors recently stated, we do have our own cemeteries. You may not remember the faceless doctor in the white coat who told you that we could not save your loved one. But the pain, the anguish that we see in your eyes makes an imprint on our hearts. There are patients that we never forget and days that we wish we could. We see unimaginable horrors and yet have to press on and remain clear-headed for the next patient that comes through our door.
And lastly, although we may have bad days and curse ourselves for choosing this sometimes tortured profession, we love what we do and care deeply about you: our patients.
Jamie Jones is a trauma surgeon. She blogs at Hot Heels, Cool Kicks, & a Scalpel.
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