The end of residency – thank you!

Thank you to all the nurses who taught me common sense, who took me under their wing as the “only girl,” who laughed with me, took care of patients’ needs with me, and saved me time and time again from making a mistake. Thank you for nicknaming me Emoji, thus reminding me every shift that I should keep smiling because this is what makes me me. And thank you for being understanding and extra caring on days when I just could not smile because I was overwhelmed. Thank you for not taking it personally in those times when I was not my best self, and for accepting my apologies.

Thank you to all the techs who repeated vitals “just one more time” before discharge, who chaperoned me for intimate exams for my legal protection, who were unfazed by the 5 million “EMERGENT” electrocardiograms I ordered, and who took patients covered in bedbugs to the shower before I ever saw them. Thank you for all the large and small tasks that you have done to care for patients and help distinguish the sick ones from the ones who are okay. Thank you to everyone working at the hospital that greeted me with a smile, that included me on their coffee runs, and that prevented angry, intoxicated patients from hitting me!

Thank you to my boys! Thank you for surviving residency with me. Thank you for being brilliant and talented and creative and strong men that push me to be a better doctor and human being. Thank you for struggling with me to maintain your humanity during this metamorphosis, and for supporting me when I needed it most. Thank you to all my fellow residents for grabbing a drink with me and telling jokes and laughing when it was the only thing to keep me from dissolving into sobs. Thanks for laughing with me when everything was going well and we were all getting jobs and getting through fires and recruiting awesome new people to our residency. Thank you to every single one of our residents for lending your soul and substance to this family, and for making our residency exactly what it needs to be.

Thank you to our leaders, for teaching us, mentoring us, pointing our our weak spots and helping us toughen up. Thank you for trying to make us stronger, but not impervious – for teaching us to work through the painful aspects of our work rather than pushing them away and hardening up inside. Thank you for the retreats and forcing us to journal and making us hike and breath in clean green chilly air and sharing your wisdom at the top of a mountain. Thank you for allowing each of us to excel in our unique ways, and not forcing us into a mold. Thank you for showing me other ways to be academic than the obvious research path. Thank you for letting me spend as much time as possible at home, and for being understanding when it seemed like my heart and mind were airborne, somewhere off in a different state.

Thank you to my family and friends for trying to understand this transformation, and for listening to the funny, the gross, the triumphant, and the sad stories. Thank you for being kind and letting me know when you’ve had enough and for gently steering the conversation in a lighter direction. Thank you for not pushing me to talk about things that are painful and you may never understand. Thank you for hearing my voice on the phone sound sad, but leaving it alone when I tell you I’m “fine.” (I always will be. I just don’t always want to talk about it, and I don’t want to burden you with things you are not prepared to deal with.) Thank you for coming to visit at precisely the right moments. And thank you for celebrating with me!

Finally, thank you to my husband, who listened to my crazy ER stories when I came home and needed to regurgitate my day, and thank you for understanding the limits of my listening ability after 9 hours of being extraordinarily patient with the 80-year-old that has to tell me about their complaint “from when it all started, 10 years ago.” Thank you for holding me when a seemingly innocuous movie suddenly became the perfect place to process all the sickness and death. Thank you for picking up the phone all those times I just needed to hear your voice, even if was just to tell me that you were with a patient and couldn’t talk. Thank you for eating scrambled eggs on Thanksgiving with me when we were both working nights, and thank you for working so hard on our “fixer-upper” despite the stupefying number of hours you spend at the hospital. Thank you for not being jealous that I work fewer hours. Bless you for being careful not to complain about the ER doctors too much. I know we admit people for obnoxious reasons sometimes. (We complain about you too, but also not too much, don’t worry!)

This is such a hard and rewarding field, with as many blessings as sacrifices. And I am so grateful and humbled to have gotten through, to have acquired the technical and intellectual training and the emotional fortification to serve people in this capacity, as an Emergency Medicine physician. I regard this specialty as one primarily focused on resuscitation and identification of the needles in the haystack, but I think helping people through the process of death when we recognize it as inevitable is just as important. And then of course there is the vastness of the rest of our specialty – the bits of knowledge about this and that, a bit of ortho, a helping of gyn, a smattering of peds, a dash of derm. Always trying to reach – sew like a surgeon, intubate like an anesthesiologist, think like an intensivist – yet always having to know when you’re in above your head and you need to pick up the phone. So to all those on the other end when I pick up the phone, please know that you humble me. I respect you so much because whatever I am calling you for, I know you can do so much better than me, and I am so grateful to be surrounded by talented people who excel at each of their specialties. Together hopefully we can serve and care for a generation of fellow human beings – these fragile beings that constantly reflect back on us our own vulnerability, mortality, and beauty.

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