Dear Husband, MD
I see you. I hear you cough all night, knowing your flu vaccine has failed and you have it. I hear you wheeze with your post-flu pneumonia. I feel you shiver in the bed beside me while you sleep for 5 hours before you get back up and start getting ready for the next “shift.”
I put quotations around “shift” because we both know you will not work 8 admin or 12 clinical, but instead you will do your own personal gauntlet of a 16+ hour combo before heading home for a typical late evening and early morning of multiple texts and phone calls while you attempt to shove a cold supper down or dry off from a quick shower. Because they never leave you alone. Even on vacation, they still call.
I see you give up your dreams and desires to keep the ever growing census list seen, to continue to manipulate the schedule thru physician shortages, random locums, NP and PA providers who are all tired of picking up extra shifts to cover the empty spots. I see the management company that you were sold to like meat, keep asking for more and more with less and less, the hospital administrators asking what your plan is, as if you have any say.
I see you losing your soul. Your joy and wit replaced by bitterness and sarcasm. You race against the clock. You rage against quality and quantity and charts and graphs and core measures and planning meetings and follow-up meetings and why-can’t-you-just-do-it-all meetings.
I see you come home exhausted, attempt to do dishes or a load of laundry because, honestly, I’m losing hope too. I fear we will never get to finish this project, build onto the house, see our children happy and content in a stress-free home. I’ve lost hope that you will move away from this path that destroys you. There are no more interviews, no more recruiters calling, you have sent them all away to live in your comfortable misery because everywhere is the same and that this is what health care has become. And I know that you are right.
You never meant for this to happen. It just did. You wanted to help people, treat them, see them walk out of the hospital and go home to their families. Or, ease their transition into the next adventure, because you know we are all mortal. Yet here you are. Documentation and EHRs, and intake registry and profit margins and Facebook posts from former patients trashing your hospital and your team’s care because they have no idea how hard a tick-born/auto-immune/mental illness is to diagnose and they just want to feel better, while you stand before them with pneumonia, taking care of them.
They don’t see you researching and reading late into the night, worrying yourself and not sleeping, pouring over medical records of 20 other patients and keeping up with them all just to start over with 20 different ones the next day. They don’t see you code the elderly patient over and over that just needs to die with peace and dignity like any mortal soul should, and they don’t see you deal daily with the ones that abuse their bodies yet still demand miracles from you. They didn’t see you dedicate 23 years of your life and hundreds of thousands of dollars to educating yourself to where you are.
I see you. And I love you.
Charity Williams is a physician’s wife.
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