On transitions (or Consult Liaison Psych: a post-mortem)

For the past three months, I feel like I have learned a lot about myself as a physician.

I have come full circle. A burn patient did not startle me or unsettle me in nearly the same visceral way. I have gone from something softer, less formed, to something which better fits the term ‘psychiatrist’.

And in some ways that is good, which will suit me well in the coming years. However, in other ways, I notice that there’s a haziness, a jading which decreases the amplitude of my emotions. Both in and out of the hospital.

I’ve noticed that I have less patience and less kindness for my friends. Less compassion and more irritation than I would have for my in-hospital patients.

What a thing to notice: that with the people who I care about the most, I experience less empathy or less feeling.

This sense of increasing ‘psychiatrist’ is a double-edged sword. I can witness and assess some of the worst things we can do to one another. And, perhaps as a result, the emotions and feelings outside of the hospital are duller and less vibrant.

My child’s smile when I return home is still a splash of warmth.
My partner’s kiss after a long hiatus is still the start of a whole new day.
But, will I always feel this way?

I know that there is a necessary level of sacrifice to complete this level of training. Residency isn’t supposed to be easy. But, I wonder if this is something that I’m willing to do long-term. Is this is a trade that I want to make for the rest of my life: to slowly swap away my lived, personal emotions for that bleeding clinical edge?

Then there’s a quiet part of me that wonders if I need to make that trade it all or if I am simply overwhelmed with all of the life that is happening around me, between Mackenzi’s family, this year old baby running around the home, and all of my clinical obligations.

Perhaps there is a way for me to maintain these lived experiences while spending so much time in the depths of the hospital. And maybe there is a way for me to see the darkness and not be swallowed up by it. To not be changed by it.

Thus far I’ve seen few examples of this. But like so many other ways, perhaps I need to become my own role model. To do something differently to become someone different. And maybe I can help a few people behind me to learn that there are different ways up the mountain.

I can set this intention, but I will not know if I’ve actually succeeded until I am well down the road and looking back at a life that hopefully was well-lived.


On the Education of a Physician

Four Prompts On Death Podcast

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