“She’s ready to push, doc.”
It’s 2 a.m. I’ve been up for the better part of the evening, doing my part in the process of labor. I groan; I have a full day of clinic patients six hours from now.
But these are the wonderful times.
These are the times, in the rural hospital that I work, where it’s completely and totally about that laboring soon-to-be mom and her soon-to-be child. There are no other patients; there’s nobody in the waiting room. There are no administrators. My phone isn’t ringing with another admission. I don’t have three other patients waiting in their clinic rooms. There aren’t any urgent messages to return. There aren’t any brand new lab results that demand my attention.
There are only two nurses, a family eagerly and anxiously awaiting their new addition, the laboring patient, the soon-to-be guest of honor, and myself — fortunate enough to be involved in the process. And everybody is completely and totally focused on our patient.
These are the times when I remember why I got into medicine. Especially when I know the patient — the patient and her family are members of my very small rural community. The patient could work down the street at the local fast food place. Or they could be the nurse’s hair stylist. Or they could work at the local college. Or they could be a senior in the local high school.
These are the times when I remember I’m human. And that beautiful soon-to-be newborn carries all of the hopes and dreams of that laboring mother. That soon-to-be newborn carries all of the hopes and dreams of the community. That soon-to-be newborn will be part of the next generation — inheriting both blessings and curses from my generation.
These are also the times when I’m reminded that family has put their faith in our hospital. And we have given them the possibility to stay in our community. They don’t have to make the hour plus drive down the road to the tertiary care center. They can receive obstetrical care close to home.
So after the successful pushing, we have the newest, smallest patient in the hospital. Sometimes I’m reminded that I wasn’t really necessary for the whole process. Sometimes I know they could have done that at home. But sometimes I’m reminded how important well-trained obstetrical providers are, and sometimes I’m reminded that Caesarean sections can save lives. Sometimes I’m so thankful that they decided to deliver their infant in a hospital.
But every time, especially at two in the morning, I take a few moments to be thankful I’m a physician — to remind myself, that being a physician has given me the opportunity to be a part of the miracle of life. I remind myself that despite how convoluted and confusing we try to make it, medicine is about that single patient, and the people trying their very best to take care of her. It’s the way that it should be for every patient, every time.
And these are the clinic days, only now three hours away, when, despite the dark circles under my eyes, despite the unkempt hair, I always have a smile on my face.
Justin Reno is a family physician.
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