Today has been lousy. It’s one of those days where you start to worry about being hit by meteors or lightning bolts. Nothing huge happened, just an accumulation of many little things; but it got under my skin.
- I keep my personal journal entries on on a program on my computer, and all of my files got erased. No, I didn’t have a back-up running, so they seem to be lost. Yes, I’ve tried recovery programs, but nothing seems to have worked.
- I got a late start to work, and then was stopped by every possible red light, and the streets were filled with cars driven by old men wearing hats (scientifically proven to be slower than men not wearing hats).
- When I got to work, I realized I left my cell phone at home. I feel naked without it. I wonder if naked people feel like they don’t have a cell phone.
- I had walk-in clinic this morning, which is supposed to be 5-minute quick visits only. Already behind because of all of those old men in hats driving this morning, I was greeted with five patients already waiting to be seen.
- One of the first I saw ended up taking me 30 minutes, and ended up being admitted to the hospital with heart failure.
- I stuck my pen in my pocket without the cap and so now have a big black spot on my pocket.
- There was other stuff that I won’t share due to HIPAA, but let me just say that I am not a psychiatrist, but I do pretend to be one quite often.
So I was pretty grumpy.
It is days like today that is one of the hardest things about being a doctor. I can’t let my day get in the way of my judgment. I can’t use my snake-bitten morning be an excuse for me not doing my job well. Each patient is here to get care from me, not hear about my day. Each room may contain someone who is very sick, or who needs a compassionate ear. People are paying to see me, not to hear me complain about my day. Like it or not, the patient is the center of the universe in the office, not me.
But when I’m in the mood to gripe, it is quite hard to turn my mind from the pity-party. I want to invite everyone to the party. Come one, come all! Let’s celebrate my misery!
Turning the mental switch that puts my emotions aside is hard, but it is essential in this job. It’s essential because sometimes that emotion isn’t coming from my day, but instead from the sexually-abused child, the new cancer diagnosis, or the patient who thinks it’s acceptable to be rude. I’m not immune to those emotions, but I do have to learn to put them aside so I can see things clearly. The next room may be the subtle chest pain that is easy to miss. It could be the person throwing subtle hints of suicide.
I appreciate the ability to gripe on Twitter and on this blog. It was nice to hear my wife’s empathy over the phone when I told her about my day. But we all should never forget that the universe is not centered on us. Some people have cancer, not missing files. Some people lose loved ones, not get stuck behind little old men in hats. Some people have terrible pain, not ink-spots on their shirts. These days are going to happen, and (despite feeling otherwise) the last exactly the same number of hours as the rest of the days. My job is to get through them without making them worse by so focusing on myself that I miss the pain around me.
I guess it’s everyone’s job.This material, written by me, is free to re-post and share under the Creative Commons agreement. In other words, use it all you want; just give me credit.