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When considering a career in Medicine, many visualize driving the nice Mercedes, going for 2-week vacations in Southern Europe, and having mansions on the lake that dwarf the neighboring properties. It is true that some of these many be realistic outcomes if you have a long and successful career in Medicine but if money is a motivating factor for you to get into Medicine, it will be a very miserable road for you to follow. I'll discuss some of my most memorable experiences in the field so far and talk about some of the factors that motivate young doctors in the field to put up with all the headaches that are associated with being a physician in the US healthcare system.
Number 1: To Help People That Really Need It
This may be one of the most frequently used cliches out there to express why a doctor wanted to get into Medicine, especially if they are embarrassed to answer the financial rewards of the field. You may have been drawn to the field at a young age due to a sick family member, or because you yourself may have suffered greatly and justify the career choice in Medicine because of those early adversities but there is a big difference between having empathy for a dying relative and empathy for someone who is a total stranger to you.
In my early experience in the field, it is truly an amazing feeling to know that you made a difference in someone's life.
I had one experience that I remember quite vividly where there was a patient who had come into the Family Medicine Department at my hospital and asked if I could examine him before he was going to go on a flight to Eastern Europe to see his family for the holidays. After taking a little about his current health and past medical history, he nonchalantly mentioned an episode where he had lost consciousness will driving his car home and recalls waking up 30 seconds later. I found out that he decided to drive to the store after, pick up some bread, and then go to Church for Sunday's Mass because it was Sunday after all. He got home to his wife and decided that he would call the hospital first thing in the morning on Monday because he didn't want to bother the doctors on the weekend. By the time he finally saw a doctor, 2 days had already passed and I told him it would be in his best interest to go to his Cardiologist to check-out the pacemaker he had implanted 20 years ago. When I saw him later in the week, he collapsed just as I was walking into the room and we needed to do CPR for 10 minutes to bring him back to life. I was on the Chest Compression team and each minute felt like an eternity as chaos around the room occurred. Eventually, we were able to regain a pulse and after spending a few days in the ICU, we transferred the patient to a Cardiac Unit closer to his family. Before he left, he asked the nurses to page me directly and thanked me for preventing him from flying on the plane.
This moment was an amazing depiction of the power and responsibility that comes with being a physician. We study to learn techniques that can save lives and prevent premature deaths. It is an amazing thing to use your knowledge to have such a meaningful impact on someone but at the same time, it is also terrifying because one mistake can have catastrophic results. It is something that I will be forever in awe of and never comfortable knowing that any error could be devastating.
Number 2: The Interesting People You Meet
This may bleed a little into the topic of Number 1 but there are specific differences that set apart these two. One fact that I am still amazed at is how many different stories there are and how interesting some of the patients that walk in the hospital truly are. I've had patients before that were former athletes, famous singers, and real estate moguls who all had interesting back-stories that make the hours fly by during on-calls.
The thing that sometimes can get lost in a hospital ward is behind all the walls, the orderlies, and the bandages, there is a human being that is seeking your help and relying on your knowledge to help them out. You will never be able to connect with them if you are chained to the Resident's Lounge working on Patient Notes but unfortunately, that is the state of the system in the US.