Medicine Isn't What I Thought it Would Be: This is How I Can Help.

Nurses are smart and observant. They know their worth and that they are desirable, but they also see that they are often not treated in this way. Due to the high demand for nurses, they are often thrust into environments where the workload is unmanageable. For some of us, medicine was not what we thought it would be, right? Neither was academia. I pondered why I was so resistant and why I discarded both. Was I just a failure? What was I missing? What was wrong with me, and why was I so broken? Damaging thoughts insidiously poisoned my puzzled mind long enough to become a festering malignancy. I was depressed; severely depressed. Determined for answers, I overturned my line of questioning. Maybe I didn't fail science and medicine. Could I dare to even entertain the prospect that it was THEM that had failed ME? Finally, I had an idea worth more than a publication in a high-impact journal and an H-index of 5 million together. I discovered that I had a "walk-away number,” but instead of numerical, it was personal. The crux of my dissent was simple: I simply had different values and medicine and academia were incompatible with them.

I found that I could not live with integrity within the medical industry. Integrity is only partially defined by the values that you tell people you believe, or the oath that you take. The real kicker is that: To practice integrity, you need to live by your words too. I was unable to live my values because I allowed societal conditioning to override what I believed to be right for me and for patients.

I don't believe that spending 5 minutes with a patient and lobbing prescriptions at them from behind a computer screen is any way to promote healing.

So many undergraduate science majors covet the doublet of letters: M.D. It’s a noble, venerable profession, with a bonus: Transformation from human to God status, guaranteed. You are bestowed the gift of healing, and you will go forth and do good. I still mentor my pre-meds with all the advice I can offer, but I do wonder if they really understand the ramifications.

I don't believe that spending 5 minutes with a patient and lobbing prescriptions at them from behind a computer screen is any way to promote healing. I don't believe that insurance should dictate treatment, nor do I believe that major medical decisions should be made for patients by people who have never known what it is like to be a doctor. Healing is a multi-step process; amelioration of illness encompasses body, mind, and soul. I didn’t want to be someone that didn't know my patients, didn't perform full physical exams, and didn't find out all the factors that could be leading to their maladies and the myriad ways they could manifest.

There is another way to promote healing in a way consistent with the values and promises of the Hippocratic Oath: Patient Advocacy.

I yearned for the days I spent at my father's neurology office. He was a single parent, so I spent my time after school in an unused examination room with all the science and medical books I could desire to pique my endless curiosity. He had the luxury of spending an hour with each patient; he knew them all as well as their families. He would take payment in paintings or fresh bread if the patient couldn't afford treatment. It was there that I observed true healing. I saw care and connection, and THAT was what I wanted. I wanted to have the time to educate my patients about their conditions and their medications and wished to know how their lives were affected. I wanted to actually know them and positively impact them. I didn’t expect them to follow my instructions blindly; I wanted them to place their trust in me not because of the letters behind my name but BECAUSE I HAD EARNED IT. I found out quickly that this is no longer the way.

I still have my head in the game, but now my heart is in it too. I still get to live and breathe medicine, but now I do it in the way that feels right for me, and more importantly, patients.

To this day, I love medicine. I love the theory, the learning, and the communication of it. I just don't care for the stark reality of its modern practice. The potential healing power is still there, it is just buried. GOOD NEWS... There is another way to promote healing in a way consistent with the values and promises of the Hippocratic Oath: Patient advocacy.

I still ultimately want to serve patients with their best interests in mind. I swore that I would. I want to take the confusion, fear, misunderstanding, and overwhelm completely out of the equation. Patients deserve to know exactly what is going on with their health, and why medications or treatments are being prescribed. They deserve someone to speak up for them if their treatment plan doesn't make sense and remind them that they can seek a second opinion. Their medical records can be summarized and combined, and medications can be evaluated and listed in one place. Patients CAN learn to take agency for their own health, know what to expect from their providers, and learn what kinds of questions they need to be asking. 

I also want to support HCPs as I don't think they really knew what they were signing up for, either. The best way I think I can do this is through patient advocacy. I can be for patients what my father used to be for his. I still have my head in the game, but now my heart is in it, too. I still get to live and breathe medicine, but now I do it in the way that feels right for me, and more importantly, patients.

You deserve what you allow yourself to believe you deserve, and you've been conditioned with the idea that you should accept sub-par treatment. That is just wrong: you deserve the best. This is your health, your life, your family. Get what is yours. (For another blog about Nursing and the natural transition to advocacy, click here )