Coming to a close…

As the first half of residency nears an end, I recall this year – with all of its trials and tribulations. There were days when I walked through the ominous double doors of the hospital’s front entrance and wondered if I would ever emerge from them again – and if I did, how changed I might be. There were days when I was so frustrated to look down at my pale blue uniform and realize that the blueness had penetrated me, coursed through my veins, made me sad. There were days when I was angry to be in the hospital and not home. And there were days I was grateful to be here, honored to care for my patients with compassion and concern. This place has grown on me, and it has challenged my perspectives on healing, illness, and hope.

As I glance out the windows at a stone garden where a little girl in a hospital gown throws a ball to her father, I wonder if residency is a process that will encourage me to close the doors of the hospital, inch by inch, never to return again, or if it is a process that will allow me to re-open the doors, ever so slowly, as I recover from the hours that I have spent here healing patients.

The sun shines bright, and rain pours down outside. Clouds linger in the distance. The rain is gray but sparkles. The greatest paradox. A beaming smile curled with doubt at the edges. Eyes wide and bright through tears. Hope high in the midst of devastation. Expect the worse, hope for the best. Residency is not unlike a downpour in sunshine – and I, drenched but warm, through it all, have reached the peak of this mountain and am now ready to trek down the other side. Unchartered territory, slippery at times, but less daunting – and less exhausting – than the ascent. This I can do.

We are entering into a transition time in the hospital. As July approaches, the new interns – with fear and enthusiasm that now amaze me, although I was one of them only 24 months ago – are entering the realm of the hospital for the first time as doctors. A momentous occasion. But as I gaze at them, I realize that an insurmountable barrier has formed between us. How can I tell them what to expect? How can I explain to them how they will change in these coming years, how they will be challenged, and how hard they will be pushed – emotionally, physically, and intellectually? No words or experiences will do this journey justice. It is very much an individual journey – shaped by our unique encounters with patients, physicians, and one another.

Earlier this year, I used to approach my drive to the hospital with dread. But now I approach my drive to the hospital with a sense of wonder. I understand, sadly, that I will not be able to save everyone who rolls through the doors. But I am confident that I will be able to make a difference in the lives of my patients. I am confident that I will work to help people heal – and even to alter the course of their lives.

The sun shines on a downpour. Tears, regrets, the past trickle down into the drains. The grayness of the world is lessened by these rays, which boldly penetrate a place where they are unexpected, but where their warmth – and persistence – are always welcome.

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2 Responses to Coming to a close…

  1. MJ says:

    As I read your post I wondered if it was these long months of being drained physically, emotionally, and intellectually that drain physicians of much of their humanity. You emerged with the ability to beautifully express your journey so that others could, only slightly, understand what you have been through. I have rarely met a physician who truly cares about the patients that they help but seeing your post sparks hope that there are physicians who do what they do because they care about people. Through the grey and bleak your post is a ray of sunshine.

  2. deboruth says:

    I think your writing is really beautiful, reflective and descriptive, pondering and wondering. Perhaps your writing ties in with what our old family physician once said, that practising medicine was as much an art as a science. Art’s role is to examine and illuminate many facets of a subject or what there is in life. Yes, sometimes one can’t save everyone who comes through the door. I’ve lost both parents now; sometimes what I feel or remember is something like “poignant”, which sounds too light, but it isn’t deep sadness either, because along with the sadness of a deep loss, there is also respect for their passing, which lessens some of the sadness. So, maybe respect is what helps one to cope with all of life’s challenges and intricacies. Am enjoying your blog, discovered some months ago. Am writing in Victoria, B.C.

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