|intern year. circa May 2012|
i started working in the Burn ICU last Friday at 6am. i had just left the hospital at midnight the night before, after finishing up an ER shift. in hindsight, i probably should have just slept in a call room.
but i wanted to sleep next to my hubby.
needless to say, things were a bit of a blur that first day. i didn't know the rules. i wore the wrong scrubs. and they videotaped rounds as part of a research study. sleep-deprived and frazzled on tape...it wasn't pretty.
Sunday i was on call. i got to the hospital at 6am, rounded with the team, then everyone left around 11am. and i was by myself until 6am the next morning. but didn't leave the hospital until noon.
i was so tired. and the patients were just so sick. it's incredibly overwhelming. i think this is something i'll have more collected thoughts about once i'm through it? but for now, i've been thinking about how doctors make mistakes. i definitely made a few during that 30-hour call. some of them had bad consequences. to say i'm torn up about it would be an understatement.
i know that i'm human. but sometimes i think my patients forget that. doctors aren't allowed to make mistakes. the general public has precious little tolerance for the fallibility of doctors. and while i appreciate being held to a high standard, the pressure gets a little too intense sometimes.
last year, during my intern year, i had high hopes that i would learn everything i needed to know to provide the best emergency care anyone could ask for. as i neared the end of last year, the panic set in, as i realized that i would never be able to learn it all in three years. "that's why they call it the practice of medicine" said my mentors. you never stop learning. never perfect it.
but something changed between last year and this year. last year, i was "just an intern". if i screwed up, it was okay. expected, even. if i nailed a procedure or diagnosis, it was a party. confetti was thrown. there were pats on the back. parades in my honor.
this year, i'm expected to know what i'm doing. there are no parties thrown if i get it right. just a "good job". because that's what i'm supposed to do. get it right. now i'm the one trusted with caring for these incredibly sick burned patients all night long. i'm the only doctor in the hospital taking care of them overnight. if i can't hack it, i've got at least a 20 minute wait until another doctor drives in from home. it's scary as hell, i'll tell you. and there literally isn't a minute of time that goes by during that on-call period where my heart isn't pounding and i'm telling myself there's no way i can do this.
medicine is a profession where you get promoted before they're sure you're capable of doing the job. when you finish intern year, you're awesome at being an intern. that's why they let you pass. but you know nothing about being a second year. that's something you learn on the fly. you go from being very closely supervised to doing things 100% on your own. it's a hell of a jump to make.
and we make mistakes in the process. i make mistakes in the process. and i have to look family members in the face and tell them "i did this." there's no glory in that. it's not glamorous. it's incredibly hard.
it's also motivating. it makes you read more. learn more. you want to make less mistakes. anything to avoid that feeling of having to tell someone it was your fault. i know it will never completely go away. i'll never stop being human. i will. make. mistakes. but the fewer the better. because even if the public forgives me, it's so incredibly hard to forgive myself.
so this is a bit of where i'm at these days. i got a bit of good news yesterday, but i can't share it until after tomorrow. cliffhanger, i know. just be patient. (: