Life of a Doctor

Life of a Doctor
This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Knowing What You Want From Life as Physician

The life of a doctor can be both challenging and rewarding. On the outside, it may seem great – being a well-respected member of the community, making a great living, and possessing authority within the medical field. However, the life of a doctor is nothing like what a majority of individuals perceive it to be – an episode of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. So, what is the difference between the perceived life as a doctor and the real life as a doctor?

The Real Life of a Doctor

  • In real life, residents, surgeons, and other doctors do not spend some much time with patients and form close bonds. They get to know their cares and they check in on them from time to home; however, doctors work more closely with computers – assessing test results. It is the nurses who take care of the patients and develop closer relationships with them.
  • In real life, nurses do not play small roles in hospitals. They are important to the clinical setting, as they conduct several tasks per a doctor’s instructions – giving patients their medication, taking blood samples, measuring blood pressure levels, giving injections, etc. Their options are highly valued and they are especially helpful to young doctors, assisting them in learning the ropes.
  • In real life, first year residents do not spend so much time in the operating room. They spend their time on the floor, educating themselves by observing different patient situations. Most surgeries are performed by chief residents and attending surgeons.
  • In real life, although residents are competing for surgeries and there is a lot of stress within the hospital environment, they tend to offer support to one another. Most often, they will get along and socialize even outside of the hospital.
  • In real life, experimental treatment does not prove to be more superior than standard treatment. Surgeons are generally not big on taking risks and to them, experimental treatment is the unknown. If a better treatment alternative is available, it is likely a part of standard treatment and not experimental treatment.
  • In real life, surgeries are planned out. Mostly on TV shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, surgeons are finding any excuse to get inside an operating room. However, in reality, if patients are considered at high-risk, surgeons may think twice before considering to operate. Apart from trauma surgery and emergency medicine, treatment plans and surgeries tend to be well-thought-out and planned.
  • In real life, working in a hospital is not so dramatic. For doctors, working in a hospital on a daily basis is pretty much routine. Although the medical profession does not come without everyday stress, most doctors are used to the fast-paced working environment.
  • In real life, there are great personality differences among different healthcare professionals. Choosing a medical specialty has a lot to do with personality, as it does with drive and devotion. For instance, surgical oncologists spend a lot of time meeting with patients and discussing their treatment options. This indicates that their qualities are open-mindedness, friendliness, tolerance, and curiousness. As opposed to trauma surgeons who tend to provide view patients as quick fixes to emergency situations, surgical oncologists have closer and more personal relationships with patients because coping with cancer involves a deeper level of doctor-patient engagement.

What Makes a Good Doctor?

There are a lot of questions when it comes to what makes a good doctor. Is it one who cures the most patients? One who is kind and empathetic? One who conducts the most brilliant diagnoses? One who maintains the highest standards and ideals? Or one who is the most knowledgeable?

Defining what makes a good doctor is a difficult task because it can be tricky to find so many qualities (integrity, empathy, confidence, reliability, strong work ethic, professionalism, and passion) in one single human being. Yet, defining the life of a doctor is far different.

It is not just about making diagnoses and saving lives, it is also worrying about making life-threatening diagnoses, committing medical errors, and being sued for malpractice. This stems from the core principle of the medical profession – Primum non nocere, which means “first, do no harm.” Moreover, doctors are consumed with tons of paperwork on a daily basis, which not only affects them, but also their patients.

There is no certain way to predict patient outcomes. Sometimes, doctors are bound by restless nights when something goes wrong. However, as a profession, the chance to make a difference is far more rewarding. It involves dealing with countless patients who are suffering from chronic conditions that you can’t change, but who you can help by putting your knowledge and expertise to good use.

With your eyes, you can see what the patient shows you. With your ears, you can listen to what the patient tells you. With your hands, you can feel the patient’s tenderness or pain. With your mind, you can determine the patient’s unspoken thoughts and body language. Once you have gathered all the information that you need, it is then that you can devote your time and attention to caring for the patient and giving them hope for recovery.

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