The Other Side of the Fence

Many doctors chose to study medicine to compassionately help and cure people, but moving through school and residency they can become jaded, rushed and exhausted. On the Lingual Nerve, Spacefan illustrates how overwhelming the transformation can be.

Spacefan’s post made me think of last week’s New York Times article on medical organizations trying to shape up docs whose patients are dissatisfied (see Dealing with Difficult Docs). Of course there’s no excuse for being rude, condescending or dismissive of patients, but society needs to recognize that the actual practice of medicine isn’t as glamorous, lucrative or exciting as it seems.

Becoming a doctor takes so many years that people have traditionally decided on that career path by the time they were 23. Are any of you currently doing what you thought you’d be doing when you were that young? I’m certainly not, but I have explored many different career options where the glitz fades after a couple years. I’ve been able to switch from one field to another with relative ease. If I had spent college, four years of graduate school and four years of specialized training for something as specific as medicine, I wouldn’t have the guts — or the financial wherewithal to pay off my loans — to stop.

Lots of people are in careers that they don’t like. With lives at stake, doctors have more responsibility to engage in their jobs even if they are unhappy than a mid-level manager at a corporation would. But shouldn’t teachers, lawyers and police officers be held to the same standards that we hold doctors to?

Again, I’m not excusing doctors who are disrespectful of their patients — I’ve had several that I don’t think should be practicing medicine — but that maybe we should give them a little slack. Even if some think of themselves as God, they are in fact human.

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