Doctor: You were strong. You are still strong today.

You were strong in college

You were strong enough to get through weed-out classes in undergrad.  You were strong enough to balance the extra-curricular activities and clinical shadowing expected of you while crushing a 21-hour semester.  You were strong enough to say, “no, I have to study” when friends wanted to go out because you had a dream of becoming a doctor someday.

You were strong enough to pay for the applications, fight for the interviews, and earn your way into a matriculating medical school class.  You were strong enough to defy the odds.

You were strong in medical school

You were strong enough to withstand the rote memorization required in gross anatomy and biochemistry. You were strong enough to take on a seemingly insurmountable amount of debt.

You were strong enough to put on that white coat for the first time when it felt like the weight of the world’s responsibilities now rested on your shoulders. You were strong enough to wear that same short white coat that labeled you a learner when you met your first patient on clinical rotations.

You were strong enough to say, “I know not.”

You were strong in residency

You were strong enough to get through medical school and to match into residency.  You were strong enough to face the long hours and sleepless nights.  You were strong enough to put your head down, be a good soldier, and do what you were told.  You were strong enough to miss weddings, funerals, and reunions.

You were strong enough to hold the hand and remember the name, age, face, and family of the first patient you ever lost.  You were strong enough to tell her daughters of their loss – and strong enough to cry in front of them.

You were strong enough to come to work the day after; the next patient needed your help, too.

You were strong as an attending

You were strong when you became an attending physician.  You were strong when everyone looked to you to make the decision.

You were strong enough to deal with the imposter syndrome that you felt would consume you.  You were strong when you were certain people would eventually figure out that you were a fraud.  You were strong because you felt that strength was required of a good doctor.

You were strong the first time you made a difference or saved a life.  You were strong when you gave the credit to the team.  You were strong even when you received no credit at all.

You were strong because your patients needed you to be strong.

You were strong when burnout came knocking

You were strong when you lost your autonomy for the first time along this journey to becoming a doctor.  You were strong when your empathy began to fade.

You were strong enough to deal with an insurance company dictating your patient’s medical care.  You were strong enough to deal with the administration’s demand to increase your clinical workload and RVU production.  You were strong enough to deal with the new electronic medical record system that was clearly meant for billing and not patient care.  You were strong enough to stand up for your patients when obstacles got in the way of their care.  You were strong when you felt like a data-entry clerk.

You were strong the first time that you felt like quitting medicine. You were strong the first time you heard a fellow physician died by suicide.  You were strong enough when you realized that same doctor was a prior friend, classmate, or co-worker.

You were strong even when you felt weak, depressed, and at the end of your rope.

You were strong when your family asked why you were coming home late.  Again.  You were strong enough to deal with marital stress and missed soccer games and recitals.  You were strong when you got called back to the hospital – knowing that your kids would ask why they were the only ones who didn’t have a parent at their school show.

You were strong enough when the stress caused you to become a patient, too.

You are still strong today

You are still strong enough today.

You are strong enough to talk with your boss, therapist, or counselor.

You are strong enough to say no.  You are strong enough to consider a change or to cut back your clinical hours at work.  You are strong enough to know that you are valuable. You are strong enough to know you have options.

You are strong enough to know that you should not have to choose between being a good doctor, spouse, and parent. You are strong enough to be able to mean it when you say that you are living the dream.

You are strong enough today to realize that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. You are strong enough to realize that you cannot do this on your own.  You are strong enough to know that open and honest transparency will help fix this problem.

You are strong enough to realize that your life matters, too. You are strong enough now to ask for the help that you know you need.

You are strong enough to know that we need strong doctors just like you.

James Turner, also known as “The Physician Philosopher,” is an anesthesiologist who blogs at his self-titled site, The Physician Philosopher. He is the author of The Physician Philosopher’s Guide to Personal Finance: The 20% of Personal Finance Doctors Need to Know to Get 80% of the Results.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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