Monday, August 23, 2010

No time to be kind

a.k.a. one more reason I don't like my job

I used to be a good person. Kind. Considerate. Empathetic.

Then I became a doctor.

I traded many fun years of my twenties for mad studies inside the library. I worked a gruelling schedule, not wanting to compromise my training. I started working in crowded wards that sometimes had more patients on the floor than on the beds. (Has anyone ever considered how awkward it is to hop from one floor patient to another, one hand desperately clutching the sari pleats and the other clutching a clipboard?) I've worked crazy 30 hour shifts, not because it was part of my job description, but because there was no one else to take over. I've stayed up with patients who were certain to die, even when I could have gone to sleep, because I didn't want to miss anything that could be corrected. I've missed uncountable meals and managed to keep functioning thanks to the packeted milo and minute maid.... but that wasn't enough to keep away the bad gastritis.

Still, I've had patients yell at me for getting up to have a drink of water instead of writing their discharge card... even though they knew full well I hadn't had anything to eat or drink for 5 hours. I've had patients and relatives disrespect me because I'm female, even though I gave them the best I could, and never less than any male. I've spent hours educating patients, writing out instructions in their mother tongue and have them blatantly ignore me and come back to the ward, worse than ever. I've seen patients been smothered by their loved ones... twice, and there was nothing I could do (that's for another post). And I was getting sick and tired of the futile nature of many aspects of my working life.

So, I cultivated nastiness. I used biting sarcasm and a loud voice that can be heard all over the ward. It became my defence, my protective wall against daily frustrations. I no longer jumped up the moment I was called (anyway, chikungunya ensured that I wasn't jumping anywhere without pain). But I took my time. I would look patients in the eye and say that I was going to tell them once, that I was going to tell them twice... but after that, I would not accept them into my ward if they did not follow my instructions (even though I have never ever turned away a patient). I pointed out to demanding patients/relatives that I was not a machine. When they got demanding, I would announce my lunch break (I am entitled to 2 hours, although never in my life have I taken more than 15 min.) and walk off. When large hords of visitors flocked in, despite my advice against tiring the patient, I asked them to leave, and restricted to the immediate family. I rarely smiled.

I remember when Darling cottoned on to this change. It was a heavy nights casualty in the female ward and there were several young girls admitted - fever, attempted suicide, unknown pregnancy etc. The ward rule is that males are not allowed in... many of these girls are wearing only skimpy night dresses, or are tossing with such delirium that modesty is not quite achieved.

Yet there are a group of males who boldly walk in with their women folk, and cluster around the aisles, or stand at the door and look into the ward, or stand at the windows and peer in. Even though it is obvious, I ALWAYS explain that this is a female ward, other women are also here, it is not correct to peep in. It annoys me no end when they don't give a damn to what I say and continue to cluster at the door or windows. One night I lost it, and questioned the whole world in general and the offenders in particular if they had no shame, that although they make sure their own women are covered from head to toe, they obviously lose no opportunities to stare at other women in their night clothes, and if they didn't leave, I would be calling the hospital police post. I did not mince my words.

Because I had (unfortunately) forgotten to disconnect a previous call, Darling heard the whole blasting from the other end of the phone. It took him sometime to get over it.

Just before I changed wards, one of the nurses told me something that shocked me. She said that in all the months working with me, she had never once heard me sing or hum a song. The realisation hit me like a cold bucketful of water as I remembered the person I had been... always smiling, always chirpy, always with a tune on the lips.

And I realised... I was not a nice or likable person anymore.


Azrael said...

When situations call you to be firm, then you must do so. Nobody can blame you for being not nice at these times.

But, leave them at work and don't take it home :D

or you could always switch to pathology he he :D

Me-shak said...

Don't do this to your self. You are a good person. People judge you on stupid assumptions, and it's stupid of them to do so. Just think how dedicated you are to your job and how much pain you go through, despite the fact that you still get ill spoken of. It's cause of people like you that this country is still not falling apart. Although I have never been directly helped by what you do, I really appreciate what you do. I really mean it.

People like you would make this world so much more better.


PseudoRandom said...

Here's a little story: there was a doctor who lost a young patient, and the patient's mother sent death threats to the doctor, saying she had put a curse on the doctor's own young child. Did the doctor change the way they treated patients? Did they change the way they dealt with relatives? Did they change the way they behaved on the ward? Nope. More than 20 years later, they're still one of the most caring doctors I have ever come across. They can be incredibly scary at times - they're known to shout at junior doctors, nurses and relatives when the need arises, but they've also got a reputation for being friendly and fun-loving, and they're adored by the patients.

The moral of the story? Don't let these negative experiences disconnect you from why you became a doctor - to care for people. You can be strict, stern and even shouty when the situation calls for it, but don't lose the essence of who you are inside: a lovely, lovely person.

Dee said...

Agree with P. Its easy to take the bad stuff and stuff it in your file to take home or store it and change yourself. Be firm but look at the little sparks that made this long journey worth it.

Jack Point said...

A good analysis, very perceptive but I would not call you nasty or unlikeable. Hardened, by circumstances would be a better description.

It happens to everyone, although to some more than others, depending on circumstances.

In my line of work I now deliberately take things easy, minimise engagement with nasties and try to only look at things on the surface, it affects one less then.

I'm still a lot grumpier than I used to be in my youth but perhaps less than I was a couple of years ago, but I don't think this is luxury that you enjoy.

You can try to separate your social and work life more and be extra nice in your social life, which is something I also try to do. A case of trying to get more in touch with my ego, rather than be ruled by my ide, so to speak.

Lady divine said...

I believe that the situations you face in your day to day life makes you be that way...

But the fact that you wrote this post shows that you're not a bad person.:)

I believe that in your line of work, you need to be that way to be heard and obeyed. But once you step out of work, you should be able to adjust back to who you really are...

Perhaps a break once in a while would help?

again, you're not a bad person.. :)

Hoot-a-Toot said...

Just from the things you have written in this blog, I know what a kind, good. lovely person you are. The fact that you care enough to shout at idiots so that the other patients don't suffer or the fact that you are looking out for the welfare of the general patients even when they don't listen shows how much of a good person you are ad how much you care. Hugs Angel. You are indeed an Angel...sometimes with a pitchfork ;o)

Knatolee said...

Oh my, you are NOT bad person!! Stressed out, yes, and maybe not in the right job setting (although that is for you to decide -- maybe you just need to be doctoring in a different environment?)

It must be pretty hard to hold onto your cheerfulness and such when you are, on a daily basis, faced with so many frustrations, stresses and obstacles. And you are right to stand up to people; being nice ain't all it's cracked up to be!

Our own family doctor (GP) is closing her practice next month. She's the best doctor we've ever had, but I have heard through the grapevine that someone filed a malpractice suit against her, and there have been other complaints. I have no doubt these complaints are all complete hogwash, and that the complainants are idiots. Among other things, we live in a rural area full of conservative white folk, and my doctor is a female originally from Mumbai (via London.) I suspect that the stress/idiots got to her and she just thought "Screw it, I'm moving to Toronto!" Our great loss.

Maybe focus more on the patients who do value you? I don't know, but you're doing important work and I hope you can find a way to not let things get to you. Hugs from Canada!

DaphnetheGreat said...

Hello lovely..
Well, it's not too late to change, you changed due to circumstances before.. maybe from one extreme to another... now you can use past wisdom to change back into something, somewhere in the middle - someone who yells at the dodgy blokes and sings and smiles at work mates ;)
Life is all about balance..
Love your work btw..

Chavie said...

I have a lecturer at uni. Students and most of the junior lecturers and staff are scared shitless of her. I respect her but I was always wondering why she was treating undergrads like a bunch of 5-year-olds.

Then one day she asked us a question: "When you guys walk into university, inside a building with a cap on, don't the other lecturers see you? Don't they understand that what you're doing is wrong, and that you look like an utter joke? But do they tell you anything? No, they'd just mind their own business and look away. But I won't look away, because I don't want you to make that same mistake at a more crucial stage in life. Now I ask you, who cares about you more? The lecturers who look away, or stupid old me, who screams at you to take the thing off?".

A lot of times, we take the easy way out by being looking away when something wrong happens. People hate confrontations. People love to hide beneath that ever-smiling face and go "Not a problem, boss". But if there are a few good people who have the guts to speak their minds and tell people they're wrong when they're being wrong, the world would be a much better place. And I see you as someone who does that Angel. Don't you ever worry about superficial things like what 'people' think.

*hugs* :)

Angel said...

Az : I am giving your suggestion serious, serious thought!

Me-shak : thanks... I really really appreciate the vote of confidence

PR : that is such an inspiration... yeah... i should hold on to that

Dee, Jack : that is my greatest weakness, taking stuff home... maybe I should just chuck it out of the window! :) Thank you for the love!

LD : join me in a break? :) Thank you... I do appreciate it...

Su : awww.... thanks sweetie! *looks at pitchfork meditatively*

Knatolee : I AM giving it some thought... and aiyo about your GP! I do hope things turn out for the best, she sounds like such a lovely person....

Daphne : thanks so much for dropping by and the words of wisdom! Mwah!!

Chavie : I think i love that lecturer of yours... thank you for the story *hugs you back*

santhoshi said...

oh angel u are a beautiful person. Sometimes stress at work makes us lose our selves, it becomes a need to get things done.