Saturday, March 16, 2013

Doctoring Is An Act Of Love

As any well cared for patient will tell you, doctoring is an act of love, not a job. 

In what other relationship do we directly put ourselves in a position of long term responsibility regarding others physical and emotional well being: parents, children, spouse, good friends? 

This covenant has it's privileges.  You become a grain in the sand of people's lives.  Membership is deep and enduring.  Very few are lucky enough to wake up every morning with a sense of meaning and purpose.  In the end, this is what drives people to the profession.  No amount of money, power, or ease can replace human connectedness.

But it's hard.  Not hard like bench pressing two hundred pounds.  Hard like carrying a sand bag on your shoulders for the rest of your life.  Your neck often bends and your posture stoops forward.  When a patient is lost, one would think that the burden is lightened, usually the opposite is true.  And there are always new patients requiring you to forfeit a small part of yourself.

There is often less to go around for others.  Your family and friends, your children, sometimes only get the scraps.  The pieces are what's left at the end of the day.  Your loved ones have also unwittingly made a covenant with every patient that walks through your door. 

If you understand this.  If you see this.  Then it is no great surprise the turbulence most physicians are now feeling.

The filling of forms.  The clicking of clicks.  The reams of checklists, rules and regulations. 

It's turning this great act of love into a job.

A clerical, emotionless, empty job.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


you are right; we physicians must look deeper/wider/longer for the reasons that brought us to the profession in the first place, in my case almost 40 years ago.

I do not feel it as I sit on the phone for 20 wasted minutes requesting a prior authorization. I don't feel it when non-clinician administrators question my clinical judgment and productivity.

I rediscover it when I can have an automatically documented conversation late at night with a worried patient via EMR secure patient portal, without reconstructing a long phone conversation in the chart. I feel it when I'm able to send labs and xray reports real time to a patient on line so they don't have to wait overnight or through a long weekend for results. I recognize it every time I connect with a patient in need, whether I help resolve an urgent symptom, or listen as they weep, or touch them in some way that eases or calms their anxiety.

The reasons to be a doctor are still there, just much harder to reach past the barbed wire that stands between us and our patients who need us.