It’s been about three years since Jacob committed suicide. In the high turnover microcosm of general surgery residency, there aren’t many who remember him.
My early idea of what it meant to be a intern came from a combination of pop culture physician idols (i.e. ER) and a handful of actual medical experiences. A dive headfirst from a shopping cart at young age earned me my first trip to the emergency room.
All physicians are taught to communicate with a fundamental language of healing. This column is a collection of reflections on how I learned this fundamental language and an homage to the teachers who taught me.
The novelty of becoming an intern has worn off, the fresh sheen of excitement on each shift, the crampy belly pain as I walk into a critical patient’s room, the rush of adrenaline as I try to intervene on a patient slowly or rapidly dying in front of me. Get up, go work, and sleep. And not much more.
The message, like all earth-shattering pronouncements, came with the softest of dings. As I was walking out from my house into the cold December air for a morning shift in the emergency department, my parents messaged me about the passing of my grandfather.
In the field of medicine, one thing is for certain: you are always interviewing. Whether it is for medical school, residency, fellowship or your “first job” as an attending, these skills are indispensable. During my career, I have interviewed on 39 separate occasions in over 150 distinct interview sessions. Here are some of my observations.
It really doesn’t take much to remind you just how human you are. I utilize the adjective “human” because most believe, both inside and outside of the confines of the medical community, that physicians are entitled and even expected to behave in somewhat robotic ways, with the long hours and constant absorption and dispensation of medical knowledge that often comes with performing the job and doing so well.
I got an email recently from one of the faculty at my program who prompted us to each evaluate the question “what does success in intern year look like?”
Twenty minutes of cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Fifteen beats per minute. Seven nurses. Five doctors. Three paramedics. Two anesthesiologists. One transcriber and me. And then the eerie silence of the trauma room as the death was called.
His eyes were as wide open as his mouth as he slowly placed his beer on the bar without looking away from me. Making no effort to wipe the thick foam from his upper lip, the man continued to stare in disbelief, “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard.”
Have you ever had that experience when you think what you’re doing is futile, and that thought goes through your mind: “Why am I doing this? I’m torturing him. This feels wrong.”