5 things this doctor wished he could tell his patients

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1. I am not omnipotent. 

As health care providers our ability to treat is sometimes affected by factors beyond our control— limitations in technology, variations in our work environment, and human nature.  While we always commit to performing our very best, our best may vary from day to day; if my best is not the best for you, then I will offer you all possible alternatives.  Furthermore, not all disease can be cured, nor every malady healed. Sometimes we must both accept that abstaining from lengthy hospital stay and procedures, so that you have the most worthwhile remaining quality of life with your loved ones, is the best we can achieve. Lastly, the person who can help me most in treating you is none other than you; we need to work together to come up with a treatment plan that both of us can follow, whether that means an agreed endpoint in a procedure, a medication regimen that you can maintain, or effective communication between us that satisfies the goals of care.

2. I will never make assumptions about you. 

The patients who present to me from the office or emergency department come with their own stories, backgrounds, and walk of life. Regardless, every patient is equally a miraculous creation, literally the greatest engineering feat of the higher power. Medical professionals devote many years studying the inner workings of the human body. Your internal anatomy is more complicated than the most intricate of human-designed machines, your arterial network alone an architectural lattice that fills pages of illustrations in books stacked in my office. Regardless of what you have done in your past prior to seeing me, what prejudices or notions you yourself may have about other human beings, the world, or life in general, we will treat all our patients equally and with the utmost care.

3. At times, I can be a patient. 

Remember, I am human as well. I carry with me the same concerns and worries about my own health that you do. Like you, I may have days I am tired, stressed, or feel under the weather; I have known many a physician colleague who has suffered from abrupt medical illness, accidental injury, or abrupt loss of a loved one. Nonetheless, while I am capable, I will always put your safety and health above mine. Like you, when I leave the doors of the hospital, my life is challenged by concerns of family members with their own health concerns and battles with disease.  It is because I can experience these things personally that I am a more thorough health care provider.

4. I did not choose my career pathway for financial gain. 

I graduated with a bachelor’s degree from a university consistently ranked among the top in the nation, with a near-flawless GPA. I spent most of my 20s and early 30s studying long hours in the library, spending many sleepless and stress-filled nights to learn and perfect my craft rather than socialize with friends. My peers went on to pursue lucrative jobs in finance and banking immediately after college, while I went on to pursue four years of rigorous graduate medical education followed by an even more challenging seven years of post-graduate training, during which I was paid a low-income salary and relied on my parents for financial support. Like most physicians, I was not able to pay off most of my debt till my mid to late 30s. While 90’s television re-runs might portray a physician as a cavalier socialite driving around in luxury sports cars and hitting the golf course at 2 pm, my reality in my early 30s has been one of entry-level sedans and afternoons spent completing office paperwork. This is not a career pathway one chooses strictly for financial incentive.

5. I love my job. 

Above all, I want you to know this: There are days I feel burned out, frustrated, insufficient, or sad, or desultory. But, I am filled with love and inspiration whenever I walk through the doors into my clinic or hospital. My eyes light with excitement when I speak to my friends about the exciting challenges and joys medicine brings to me, the greatest of which is seeing you happy and healthy. While my frantic drives in the middle of the night for medical emergencies are filled with nervousness and sometimes fear, there is also a sense of exhilaration and animation knowing that I can utilize all my years of education and training to give you a fighting chance to survive. The moment this passion and enjoyment wears off, I will walk away. But until then, know that despite all the sacrifices and financial burden it took for me to get to this point, despite the times I experience doubt or fear or the days that my own health may fade, I chose a career pathway in medicine because I truly love this profession.

Lavi Nissim is an interventional radiologist and co-founder, SocialRounds.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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