To the man with flowers that I met on my way out of the ICU:
You came up to me and told me how grateful you were to all of the doctors in this place, for how well they treated you and your wife.
You were holding bright red, maybe pink and yellow flowers with gold ribbon in clear wrap. You had grey hair and a kind smile. I said something like, “That’s so wonderful, I am glad you had a good experience,” and then looked to my left.
My attending physician was far enough down the hall to have already looked back and yelled at me with his eyes to hurry up.
I am sorry that I could not stay and talk. Sharing that moment with you made me feel warm, and I want to thank you for that.
For the rest of the day, I endured a lecture on efficiency.
Despite our common intentions, I observe so many contradictions in medicine. Care, but don’t care too much. Follow 11 patients and get enough sleep to make good decisions about their care. Lecture a patient on diabetes, gorge on donuts in the break room, and then roll your eyes at the patient who won’t lose weight.
Three months into my third year of medical school, I am not sure what to make of this. I know that I still want to stop in the hallway and say thank you to the man who tells me about his wife’s care. I know that I one day hope to perfectly manage 11 patients and get enough sleep. I also know that I love sweets and don’t know how to effectively talk to patients about their weight.
I guess this is why I am a still student.