Agraphia Medical Tragicomedy

24Jun/1215

End Of Another Era

And like that, it's done.

I walk out of the ER after my last shift, finished with residency.  It's an incredibly bittersweet feeling.

I've been in school for 23 years.  Elementary, middle, high, college, medical, and then residency.  I've been in training all of my life. For the first time I'm on my own.

I'll always have someone to ask advice from, of course.  My fellow physicians, nurses, patients, families.  But someone finally gave me the top degree, the final award.  I'm an attending physician.

It is liberating - and terrifying.  I no longer need to ask if I should bring someone into the hospital because of their mild chest pain.  Then again, I no longer can ask if I should bring someone into the hospital because of their mild chest pain.

I'm ready, I suppose.  A patient the other day had a serious blood clot in his lungs, and another physician asked me - colleague to colleague - whether or not she should give the patient clot busters.  It's a weighty decision. Given to the wrong patient, they die immediately from massive internal bleeding.  Given appropriately, a healthy patient goes from death's door to alive and well.  We discussed the benefits and drawbacks, and in the end I recommended the drug.  Right now, the patient is back with his family, sharing memories he might not have shared.

One of these days, I'll be wrong.  Perhaps it will be my failure to recognize the problem.  Maybe I will advise the wrong treatment.  One day, it will just be bad luck.  But from this point forward, it's me and no one else who will be responsible.

I look back now on 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, and 3 years of residency, and ask myself if it was worth it.  I've sacrificed the best years of my life to this profession and to my patients.  The other day, one of our nurses saw my ID badge and remarked how much I had aged in only 3 years.  My girlfriend pokes fun of my grey hairs at the young age of 29.

Was it worth it?  I'll never forget the hard times.  To this day I remember almost crying tears of joy when I thought I was stuck in an elevator.  I've had so many good people die. I've had so many mean people live.  I've been so tired I want to cry, and I've been so hungry I've stolen food off of meal trays.

It's a wonderful, vicious, honest, angry, happy, unfair, and real life that I've lived.  I have seen the very best and the very worst side of people.  I have been spit at, cursed at, and punched while trying to help the very people that assault me.  I've been blessed by, prayed at, and thanked by more people than I can even count.

Is it worth it?

Yes.

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Comments (15) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Wow you’re done! Congratulations!

    What’s next?

  2. I have to apologize for being out of commission for so long, by the way. I ran afoul of my hospital’s legal team about a year ago. Physician bloggers are not welcome at hospital systems, it seems. I’m working at a new (private) facility this year, so I figured I can start writing again.

  3. Congratulations! Came here via reddit, and now your blog’s in my RSS reader. :)

    Good luck with the next phase!

  4. How far we all have come.

    Well done.

  5. Cheers, Lyle! Seems like yesterday we were in anatomy lab, doesn’t it?

  6. Congratulations!

    I am about to begin the journey to becoming a psychiatrist. 3 year undergrad degree, 3 years for M.B.B.S. then 4 years specialisation, followed by a 2 year internship. I have a long and difficult journey ahead of me because of my own psychiatric conditions (I have type 2 bipolar disorder and severe generalised anxiety and panic disorder.)

  7. Congratulations! I hope you’re going to continue blogging, or at the very least, leave this one available. Its such a pleasure to read!

  8. Hi Zac, Congratulations! Thanks for sharing your life with strangers on the internet lol but really I have enjoyed your posts. I think you would be a interesting person to have a chat with though that probably won’t be in this life.

    God bless, you are a great Dr just make sure you don’t get overworked- for your good and your patients.

  9. I thought I received the email notification by mistake. But no, here you are again.

    Congratulations!

  10. Been following your blog for a while.. Congratulations!

  11. I too, had to double take at the email notification.

    Congratulations, Zac!

    All the very best for the future, and be sure (where possible) to continue sharing those good times and bad; you never quite know just how many people you inspire with your tales.

  12. Congratulations Attending Doctor Zac! Must be a fantastic feeling.

    I’ve followed your blog pretty silently since I discovered it a couple of years ago, and your words continue to inspire me as I slog through this medical degree of mine. Thank you – and I hope we are able to hear more from you as you move to this new facility!

  13. Congratulations! Everyone gives the flower of their 20′s to some pursuit and most probably feel some bittersweet pangs as they near 30. You gave those years to medicine and can feel proud of the patients (drunks and drug-seekers included) who you’ve helped during your training and look forward to a return on the investment in training as you enter the “real world.”

    BTW, we all have stolen food off of meal trays at one time or another. No guilt there. I once raided the ICU fridge and drank Ensure that belonged to a patient who died earlier that day.

  14. (Have I ever introduced myself before? Another stal… er, completely sane lurker here! :)) Congratulations!

  15. Congratulations, Zac! It’s a great post. I hope you continue blogging.


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