Thursday, May 27, 2010

"Are you dying?"

My office is cold. Cold enough that I wear a jacket at work and have given up on the white coat. I have tried to get the temperature raised but have given up. My patients do not want to get undressed and today one of my patients asked me as I felt for neck lymph nodes- "Are you dying?" I answered "Of course, I am. Aren't we all? Some quicker than others." He smiled as he told me that my cold hands are not quite compatible with life.
This reminded me of another time when one of patients insisted that I could not be a healer- "A healer does not have cold hands". Luckily, I know many of my patients would disagree. Although, a healer is not how I would classify myself.
Many years from the original incident - after a disconcerting, surprising move cross country, across time zones and growth zones, I am still wondering how I see myself.
As a primary care doctor who has worked almost exclusively in the hospital for the past few years, I want to be seen as a competent clinician, a decent diagnostician, a thoughtful human being with a good bedside manner and jargon avoiding teacher. I know all of that is quite the mouthful, despite my concern of avoiding jargon.
What a move does- is shake you up; as does a new job. New place, new people, new routines and a new culture of work with the loss of old routines can be traumatic even when desirable. I have wanted this move mainly for spousal career enhancement and in my own way I wanted a change, an improvement in my life and work. Now, what I feel is a dose of regret- at least, this morning after a sleepless night.
I want work that brings me satisfaction, helps people, improves me as a physician and as a human being. That is not a tall order but seems to need a bit of crafting a different way of living and working.