Agraphia Medical Tragicomedy

9Oct/05Off

So I'm a bit nervous about tomorrow. Not only do we go back to the grind (week of vacation, how I loved you), but I have to deliver bad news. Yep, that's right, I get to "learn" how to tell someone that their wife died, or they have cancer, or whatever. Fun times, I know. I suppose you have to do it sometime.

What's scary is rumor has it that 1 of the 6 students gets the violent patient. Not physically violent (they leave that for the wards) but screaming, yelling, "I CANT BELIEVE YOU'D DO THAT, THIS ISN'T HAPPENING TO ME" sort of craziness. Not so much that I'm worried it's going to be me... 1 in 6 aren't great odds. It's more that they keep throwing these things on us (remember the high-risk behavior entry from before?) and it just keeps escalating. This time I get to tell someone that they are going to die. We're going to get instructions beforehand, of course- the calculated, empathetic touch, the words of condolence....

I guess I still have to figure out what level of personal emotion there should be. I mean, I'm nowhere near the wards yet, haven't actually done any care on my own, so in part this is all idle speculation until I do (I'm volunteering for a glaucoma clinic 2 weeks from now). Some people say that the doc is there to give information, and needs to be a rock that the patient can depend on for information. Others hate that idea, and think you should cry WITH the patient.

I have no idea. I haven't been through enough of this to be able do to more than throw out the worries that I have. Person? Deliverer of facts? Caregiver? Somewhere in between? There are a lot of things you've got to start to ask yourself when you deal with people's lives on a daily basis.

I suppose I could also sidestep the whole issue, go and be a pathologist, or a radiologist; someone who ends up doing the patient-less work. I know that's not why I wanted to go into medicine, though.

Still and all, it's hard to wrap your head around the realization that at some point, you could be desensitized to death. Obviously it depends on your profession (a high-risk cancer doc is going to have to counsel a lot more dying patients than, say, a family practitioner), so maybe this is all idle speculation. Maybe you don't lose that, no matter how much you go through it. I'd like to think so. I've heard too many people say otherwise.

Call me up in 5 years, ask me where I am. That's the real question, I suppose. Who will I be after all of this?

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