The power and beauty of writing rest in a process of active narrative formation. The act of expression helps us make sense of what happened, integrate this into our sense of self, and clarify our values that will influence our next steps. Conveniently, our expression serves as a record of both identity and narrative formation, giving us a glimpse of ourselves more intimately than we typically take time for.
Instead, I was worried that medicine would consume me only to regurgitate me as a mere collection of cells and systems — just like those I would be expected to regurgitate on the test. I was worried that the demands of knowing it all would make me believe that I could know it all, that there is nothing in the spaces between what we know. I was worried that bathing in science would make me stop believing in art.
I was raised by two physicians who did not “differentiate” until well into their rotational year, and they did, as their generation tends to say, “just fine.” But the reality is that what was “just fine” for physicians-in-training even one generation ago is no longer as feasible.
I remember hearing an important piece of advice: “If you are passionate about something, you will make time for it in medical school.” This advice, however, was soon countered by a snarky follow-up: “It is not that you did not have time for it; you did not make time for it.”
For better or worse, I have always partaken in escapism in one form or another. “Escapism,” defined as the practice of avoiding a difficult reality by immersing oneself in distraction or entertainment, is a concept that rose in popularity in the 1930s as a natural reaction to the Great Depression of the previous decade. Although I did not know it at the time, I have been practicing escapism since 2000 BC (before COVID). As the eldest daughter of immigrants who were new to the continent and busy building a life from scratch, I would get lost in stories from a very young age. I had little in the way of friends and even less of an interest in being popular, so naturally I was drawn to books to fill that emotional void; novels were the way to my heart — fantasy and fiction, oh my!
I hope my classmates, communities, and I all dance far more often with health than sickness. I pray that soon the last hospital bed holds the last patient with COVID. I hope justice and truth prevail. I hope we hold onto what we carry: the love of friends and family, a resilience tried and true, bravery unbridled and faith that we will persevere among the challenges life affords. I hope that after long days of caring for others, we care for ourselves and call a friend, a loved one, a therapist — and remember how far we’ve come. We have been patients, and we will be patients, even as we care for patients.
I’m not the first to think / under my breath, even out loud: / To test positive for Covid. / Even after this morning.
Remember why you’re here. Remember what you value. Decide what your ‘meaningful suffering’ is and don’t waver. For if we do, we too may one day find ourselves running down the hall, away from the very reason we decided to become doctors.
In this interview, we talk to Dr. Stephen J. Swensen. He is dedicated to the support of thoughtful leaders who aspire to nurture fulfillment of their staff. He is a recognized expert, researcher and speaker in the disciplines of leadership and burnout.
As I reviewed the notes, it occurred to me that many of my peers and I have displayed some of the signs and symptoms of mental illness. Our professor’s lectures emphasized the importance of recognizing these features in patients, but what about identifying them in ourselves? Should it also be our duty to recognize the signs and symptoms in our colleagues?
In this episode, we interview Hamza Khan. Hamza is a multi-award winning marketer, best-selling author and global keynote speaker whose TEDx talk “Stop Managing, Start Leading” has been viewed over a million times. He is a top-ranked university educator, serial entrepreneur and respected thought leader whose insights have been featured by notable media outlets such as VICE, Business Insider and The Globe and Mail.
This piece is focused on the applications of empathy and compassion in decision-making. How can we distinguish between them? In its simplest form, empathy deals with feelings while compassion deals with understanding.