Optimism

Opinion

I found this tweet from med student writer Danielle Jones:

Still need some guest bloggers for “I Love My Job” series.

On the same day I also found:

Is now the best time to be a doctor? I think not

from a practicing surgeon whose anonymous blog and Twitter feed are insightful and often hilarious.

Student optimism and physician cynicism are the loudest, if not commonest voices I find in the medical community at large*.  While I suspect most disgruntled doctors were once idealistic students, the sequence is not universal. Personally I’m a much happier practicing surgeon than I was a student. And residency? Total drag.

Whether you lose your med student optimism, I believe, depends on what stresses you, on the choices you make throughout your career, and on whether you see possibilities or limitations when you look around yourself. In residency, all I saw was limitations.

Count me among the optimists now.** My hospital is known for its inefficiency – I could start listing the frustrations, but as I leave the hospital any given day I’m more likely to be mulling over an interesting case or recalling a sweet scene between patient and family.

Also, my list of frustrations is actually a to-do list. Can’t find a phone directory anywhere on the hospital intranet? To-do #1: call (find) director of communications, suggest directory. Can’t get the instrument I need in the middle of a case? To-do #2: Review equipment with OR staff, discuss purchases vs alternatives.

When do I have time to address the to-do list? Never. But instead of complaining about something twice, I write it down once. The next time I’ve spilled gallstones and we have no stone-grasper, instead of yelling at the circulator, I yell at myself for falling behind on my to-do list.

I’m also optimistic because I find change interesting and innovation thrilling. Yes the new EMR can bring your whole night to a halt, costing you thirty precious minutes to enter a maintenance saline order, but the challenge is also a little like learning a new video game. (Every time I enter my signature code, it’s like entering my initials for the local high score.) Plus I recognize the vastly improved efficiency in records since I started med school in 1991.

I can’t think of a profession that hasn’t undergone substantial change in a generation, thanks to innovations, regulations, and evolving cultural attitudes. So when I hear people gripe about medicine, I suspect the issue is not medicine but change.

Chris Porter MD

 

*I’ll distinguish the online community, which is largely optimistic, from the grumbling men at grand rounds conferences.

**To be clear, I was a surly surgeon, transiently, a couple years ago. The reason was burnout, not medicine. My optimism returned when I gained insight and made adjustments. It’ll happen again I’m sure.

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