Content warning: The following article is about sexual assault and rape. I think it is time to be honest with myself and the world and say that I am a survivor of sexual assault, not a victim. I have taken the power away from my abuser and given it back to myself by speaking out.
It was a beautiful late winter Sunday, and my husband and I decided to drive to Plum Island, in the quaint sea town of Newburyport just north of Boston, for some bird-watching and ocean views. I wondered how my sister-in-law was doing — her wedding was scheduled in just seven days, and she and her fiancé had already been faced with tough decisions because of the coronavirus pandemic.
As a program director, I am worried about my trainees who are already challenged with the usual stressors of graduate medical education (GME). This new illness is threatening to upend and disrupt our program in ways that I cannot even imagine, and therefore cannot plan for.
Residency is a challenging time plagued by long hours, overwhelming clinical service loads, escalating documentation requirements, and inadequate resources for support. A recently published study in the New England Journal of Medicine illustrates how mistreatment in the training environment takes an additional toll on medical trainees.
On October 16, 2019, our collective of health care workers at Yale University disrupted the meeting of the Graduate Medical Education Committee. Heads turned and followed us to the front of the lecture hall, where we unfurled our banner declaring “Doctors are Humans Too.”
We are fighting for UW to come up to the national standard in their treatment of residents; we’re not asking for the impossible. Residents deserve to work in humane and livable conditions.
On September 25, we participated in a 15-minute unity break (effectively a walk-out) with over 450 residents and fellows at the University of Washington in protest of UW’s dismal contract proposals during our negotiations. It was led by the University of Washington Housestaff Association (UWHA), one of the few unions of resident doctors in the United States.
During residency, do you ever stop to think why you wanted to become a doctor? What were your reasons? I wish I could remember mine. I could have pursued so many other careers. I used to be a director of a non-profit organization, helping individuals from low socioeconomic backgrounds attain technical skills. I do not recall being at my current level of mental, emotional and physical dysfunctionality while working that job.
Last week, the resident physicians and fellows of the University of Washington collectively decided to walk off the job for a 15-minute “unity break” in protest of unacceptable working conditions and stalled contract negotiations.
Listen to the track “PGY3” by Dr. Roy Souaid and his band “John Lebanon.” The song started in New Orleans during the American College of Physicians National Conference in May 2018 and has been a yearlong project inspired by street buskers, hospital sounds and jazz. It captures the medical resident’s work flow and is set in the medical intensive care unit at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island.
In my first post in this two-part series, I presented an argument for why physicians and administrators need to work together to develop small-scale interventions to bring meaning to medicine while we continue to push for larger systemic change. In this post, I will explore some effective (and some less effective) themes for interventions for residents.
Of all the fulfilling and purposeful vocations to pursue, we’ve ended up trying to find our footing in the vast and ever-changing maze of medicine. Propelled by some combination of privilege, perseverance, and circumstance, we became doctors — many of us with the noble drive to heal and support other humans through the physical and spiritual struggles of life.