Tuesday, May 03, 2005
ContradictionsThe further I get along in med school the more I notice the contradictory emotions tied up in this field. It becomes most obvious when a patient has an interesting and devastating disease process. I find myself conflicted -- excited about seeing something new and the prospect of learning but saddened by the patient's suffering. People give medical students conflicting messages too. Be empathetic and don't become hardened, but don't get emotionally involved and don't bring work home. It's impossible to do both. How do you find an acceptable balance?
I'm doing my surgery rotation now and I often find myself conflicted. Whenever my trauma pager goes off I get a little psyched to see what is going to come through the door but then feel sympathy for the patient when they arrive. The other night I had the opportunity to go to an organ procurement. Teams flew in from MUSC and Duke to do the surgery, and I stayed late to watch. It was fascinating... seeing a group of doctors from different institutions work together to accomplish something, seeing the techniques used, going over the anatomy. But then I would step back and remember that this was a 13 year old girl and a wave of sadness came over me. I just don't know how I'm supposed to distance myself from the humanity of these situations. And I'm not sure that I want to.