Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Is Medicine Giving You PTSD?

I immediately noticed upon awakening that the intense jaw pain was gone.  I guess the TMJ was on hiatus.  Than I reached my hand down to my waist to make sure that the pager hadn't fallen off during sleep (as I do every morning); it wasn't there!  It took a few moments for me to remember that I had dispensed of it the day before.  For the first time in years, the buzzing, beeping, insistent mistress had been silenced.

And the rest of the week has been just like this.  No headaches, no jaw pain.  When I see a patient for a visit there is no ringing or buzzing interrupting my thoughts.  There are no overhead pages.  I can actually sit across from another human being and listen, you know, like regular people do.  Like someone has lifted a hundred pound weight from my back and all the sudden I can breath. I am light as a feather.

I feel like a first year medical student.  Free from the chains of overwhelming responsibility, I can return to thinking abut medicine for the pleasure of it.  No one pages a first year student out of the room for an emergency.  No one rushes him through an interview or scolds him for being too generous with his time.

All the things I hated about my job have suddenly disappeared.

How long can this last?  When will some malevolent force descend on me and take away this newly found joy that, until recently, I didn't even know existed?

Can I tell you how much I hated that pager?  That insidious soul sucker that buzzed against my skin in the middle of the night and woke me with heart racing: the bringer of bad news, evil things, death and disorder.  I started to jump even when the calls were for the most banal of issues.  I should have smashed it.  I should have snuck onto the train tracks and left it idling.

Yes, I know, it wasn't the pager.  It was the lifestyle that was giving me PTSD.  The lifestyle that was sucking every ounce of my soul and leaving me hollow, empty.

It is the lifestyle that most physicians still lead today.

3 comments:

jimbo26 said...

As the old saying goes ' breathe deeply and smell the coffee ' .

Lisa Lampkin said...

I can only come within a few inches of understanding how you feel and I'm a nurse in a large ICU in SoCal. I can see the stress and frustration on my fellow physicians. I have become more aware of the current state of medicine as my 14 year career progresses. It's only getting worse. And, unfortunately, it's weight is on our physicians who didn't know they would be facing these stresses on top of the "normal" stresses of being in the MD position. I'm sure this isn't close to what you thought you were signing up for back in college. Please know that many are on your team and rooting for you and your colleagues. As a nurse, I have reverted back to the old nursing ways and trying to make it easier for our physicians. If that means offering my seat or getting them coffee, then so be it! God bless you and please keep your head up. God knows, we need more MD's like you!

Anonymous said...

You nailed it. Thanks for the blog. Nice to know I'm not alone in feeling this way.