My new job is hard.
Like dumb hard.
Like, you don’t realize how difficult it’s going to be as an intern until you are crying in the bathroom after your shift sobbing, “I will get better at this. I will get better at this.”
And yet, it happened once during my first rotation. At least it only happened once.
I’m lucky to have friends, former medical school classmates, who matched close to where I currently work. On the miraculous weekend days where we actually are free to see each other, we bitch about work. We can’t help it. When you work anywhere from 11 to 15 hours a day five to seven days a week, you don’t really have much else to talk about.
I love and hate that this is my new life.
I get to be a doctor. My dream is literally coming true right before my eyes in the moment, and yet there are moments where I just want to scream and cry and quit.
It’s so hard.
I learned what necrotic tissue smells like yesterday. It was the worst smell of my life. I can’t forget it. It permeated the room. It got trapped in my mask. It was so strong, I wondered if I was about to vomit on my patient’s bed.
I didn’t. I kept my cool, cleaned off the dressing, and left them to rest. I then walked down the hallway, ripped off my mask, and gasped for air for fifteen seconds before heading off to clinic.
I will, most likely, smell that wretched scent again sometime before my four years are up.
This doctor shit is really fucking hard.
Having the title means nothing if you are not the person your patients need you to be. The access, the vulnerability. Sick people allow you to see them and touch them at their worst. It still boggles my mind when I walk into a room to talk to a patient, and then pull up their gown to look at and touch their body. Where else is this allowed, is the norm, where at times you freely relinquish your bodily autonomy?
Seeing what my patients go through scares me. It gives me this new perspective on life, on how I would deal with situations if I were them. And frankly, I would do it so different.
If I am going to die, fuck chemo and radiation and surgery. If I am going to die, I am quitting my job and leaving this wretched place. If I am going to die, I will suck and fuck every dick and cunt from here to kingdom come. I won’t live my last days in a hospital bed with folks desperately trying to give me another shitty thirty minutes when I could be enjoying five joyous ones.
Every day of intern year is another day to feel like an idiot, a fuck up, and wonder if you’re about to hurt someone or if you will ever get it right.
I struggle to hold onto my child like whimsy in this profession. I struggle to keep to the values that got me this far. I know what I want to do in my career, but getting through the next 3 1/2 years to be able to do that is going to be… rough.
What makes it better are the patients, the staff, and my family and friends. When I walk into a room, introduce myself as doctor, and then my patients keep calling me doctor throughout our encounter. When the staff in the hospital call me Doc when they walk through the halls in greeting. Each time my friends tell me how proud they are of me. Each time my mom introduces me as her daughter, the doctor. Each smile and hug and heartfelt congratulations. It’s been enough. Enough to keep me going. Enough for me to not quit.
I don’t want to quit. I want my clinic life, with my diverse queer patients giving them comforting affirming healthcare. I want to work less than 12 hours a day. I want to have weekends and vacations and a life with the people that I love and care about. I want a life outside of medicine.
It’s funny, in conversation with one of my coworkers I mentioned that I go to a happy hour once a week. They were shocked that I had some thing, even though it’s just a little something, that had nothing to do with medicine, but I was able to regularly keep it in my life.
My work cannot be my life. My work must be my work and my life must be my life. Intermingling of the people is fine, but I cannot live to work. I most definitely work to live.
Four years. Just four years until the life that I truly want comes to fruition. Four years until my sleep is truly restful. Four years until I can think about getting a dog. Four years until I can think about getting a house.
Four years, one day and one patient at a time.
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