Monday, June 30, 2014

I'm a doctor.

Tomorrow is my last day of residency. My last day to work at Truman Medical Center, Lakewood.

I have done a lot of strenuous, difficult things in my life. Things that require not only dedication, but perseverance. I think these last 3 years were the hardest.

I keep a smile on my face. I don't complain. I do my work. Put in orders as I'm told. I act as though it's just life. As though working horrid, long, draining hours taking care of patients who mostly don't care about their own health, let alone what I have to say, and then checking out my every thought and plan to attendings who always add their "two cents" doesn't even bother me in the slightest.

Well, it sucked. I aged A LOT in 3 years. You can see it in my photographs. I showed a co-worker a photo of myself delivering Curtis; she remarked "Look how young you were!" Curtis was 3.25 years old at the time. I've aged. A lot. In 3 years.

The hours. The patients. The attendings. It's all so very necessary in the process to become a good physician.  Trust me. You DO NOT want a doctor who thought residency was "easy". You just don't.

Residency, for me, has been like most of my pregnancies. I know the end result will be awesome. I know it's a right of passage. Something I must do. And as such, just because I am suffering, I will not force those I live with, work with, play with to suffer my misery. Then, at the bitter end, I just can't hold it together any longer. The gig is up. I am done. I see my freedom. As a soon to be private practice doctor. My own boss. I can't pretend anymore. I feel nothing but happiness and excitement to be moving on.

For three years, I pretended to be modest. The constant, "I don't know how you do it" comments, that I brushed off, as if to say, "Oh, it's nothing." Yeah, your damn right you don't know. You have no clue. It was {f-bomb} insane. I was literally on the edge of sanity for 1,095 days. I have a saint for a husband. A saint for a mom. A saint for a Mother-in-law. Father. Father-in-law. Sister. Sister. Brother. Friend. Child. Cousin. You don't know how I did it, because even I don't know! No clue. How I got to where I am, right now, with one day left, is a blur. I just know, I will never, ever repeat it, and recommend the process to no one.

At any given moment, if I truly fell over that edge, I was prepared to give up my career, drown in student loans, and do whatever necessary for the betterment of my family. One might think having 4 children, and actually birthing 2 during residency was a contributing factor to the near-debilitating stress of the pathway to becoming a physician. It wasn't. My family was my refuge. My love. My getaway. No matter how miserable work became, I arrived home to my favorite people. 5 of them. Every. Single. Night. (Except, of course, the nights I didn't actually get to come home.) Those boys are why I remain happy, every day of every week of every year.

A fellow resident once described being the weekend day person on the medicine service as "going to war". He was entirely accurate. There were weekends I lost 7 pounds in the course of 48 hours. Patients "need" your services. Which means nurses "need" your services. And these come from the ER docs who, also, "need" your services. My responsibilities as "mom" to 4 toddlers don't got nuthin' on my responsibilities as "med RIC". We answered page after page, read X-rays, ordered meds, ran codes, delivered babies, restrained belligerent, or insane, or both, patients, listened to endless hearts, lungs, bellies, gave narcotics, withheld narcotics. We pronounced people dead. We SAVED PEOPLE'S LIVES.

The paperwork. Evaluations. Quizzes. Tests. Journals. Lectures. We didn't even get to eat lunch in peace. Just a nice 30 minute break in the middle of the day. To hang out with peers. Nope. Not allowed. You. Must. Work. At all times. Or at least be learning something.

My peers. Truly, the only wonderful thing about the last 3 years. I graduated last Friday with some of my favorite people in the world. Amazing individuals. People who, like me, sucked it up and survived 3 years, with {mostly} a smile on their face. The connection you make with people, when you have all been through the same, traumatic, experience is unbreakable. Like my IU swimming girls, we are bonded, for life. I will miss them terribly. So much so, I nearly cry as write this. We never felt sorry for one another. There was no empathy for our colleague on their 11th admission over night, or the unsuccessful code, or that nurse that won't leave you alone. We'd all had that experience, too. So what? Yet, we all respected one another. We laughed. A lot. Used each other as a sounding board, a resource, an understanding ear, and at times, the only source of encouragement and validation left in our lives. My mom will always tell me, "it's going to be ok". That's what mom's do. But, for the past 3 years, unless I heard it from my fellow resident, I couldn't be sure it was true.

My actual family medicine residency program? The best you can ask for. I had 2 kids. I graduated on time. They made sure of this. They educated us, lectured us, tested our knowledge, forced us to think on our own. There were multiple caring, involved, intelligent attendings, pouring their heart, soul and lives into training new doctors. The program provided us as much "personal time" as a residency can while still responsibly training future physicians. It's not their fault. Residency sucks.

I feel like I should be really proud of my accomplishments. Ecstatic to be finishing. Singing nothing but praises about my last 8 years of training. Afterall, I am finally, a doctor. It's my longest lifetime goal. Don't get me wrong, I cannot wait to build my practice, help educate people about their health, get them well and keep them healthy. I have no regrets, not one, with the path I have chosen in life. I hope to be involved in the lives of many wonderful families. I hope people will come to see me and leave motivated, invigorated and more knowledgable about their well-being. But like any, huge goal, when it's achieved, it's over, and for a brief moment you feel lost. Until, on to the next big thing...the rest of my life. My career. I'm a doctor.

I truly enjoy this vocation. I am thankful for my brain and personality. People ask me all the time, why I became a doctor. In my head, the best, most honest, answer I have? Because I could.

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