When people used to ask me what a typical day entailed for me, I would gladly share the early starts, the long days on my feet in the OR, and on-calls where anything would happen. I would laugh at how I must have a bladder of steel and cry over some of the saddest stories which came through the front door. No matter the stories, though, one thing was a constant, and that was I was unshakably proud to be a surgeon.
I had wanted to be a surgeon since I was just a child. Everything I did in school was only ever done because of my unwavering fascination with the human body. I imagined what it would be like to help someone, to relieve their pain and perhaps even save a life. With that single-mindedness, I made it to medical school and then beyond. I trained day and night to be a surgeon. And even through the long hours and constant study, the sacrifice of my marriage and having a family, that love of my vocation never, ever went away.
I eventually landed my dream job. In a hospital I loved, and with a team that I thought was inspirational. In the OR, I was so at home. I operated as much as I could, cared for my patients, and taught the art of surgery and medicine to everyone I could. I can say without any falsehood that I am a very good surgeon. Despite all this, the edges began to fray, and I started to get the sense that, except I didn’t notice it until it was too late.
When my job came up for review, I found myself very unexpectedly unemployed without so much as a thank you for your decades of work for the good of the community or even an explanation.
Given the suspiciousness of the circumstances, I tried to pursue the case only to be let down by the complaints system. As I dug for information and explanation, the only things that I found were evidence that I simply wasn’t liked enough to have kept my job. I was the victim of discrimination, petty jealousy, and professional politics. And I was too naïve to notice it happening until it was too late.
And so, as a highly trained and skilled surgeon, I found my days instead of being filled with operating and patients, instead filled with long stretches of nothingness.
Of scouring advertisements for jobs, writing any paper that might add even a little to my resume, and just trying to make ends meet. I would give anything to work in the vocation that I love so much, but instead, my once fulfilling days are focused on making ends meet and desperately trying to hang onto my career. As the days roll into months, I am so afraid of seeing everything I worked for slipping away, knowing that the longer I am out of work, the harder it will be to stay current and skilled. The longer I am out of work, the more my personal life falls apart, bit by bit.
All I ever wanted to do was to be a surgeon, but I was pushed out. My career is fading fast, and I cannot help but mourn everything I have lost; my passion, my livelihood, my sacrifices which now seem to have been in vain. All I want to do is to do the very thing I yearned to do in my childhood — in fact, my whole life. And on the surface, it’s being a surgeon, but underneath, I just want to be that person who helps others again.
The author is an anonymous physician.
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