And when I discovered this piece of genius on a T-shirt in our college fest, “Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance?” I thought, Good one, Ha-ha… wish I could afford that! This may not serve well in the field of medicine, where every minute your mind is on its toes.
During my medical school years, I looked at the senior doctors, practicing year after year, decade after decade, not tiring of doing what they do, with the same drive and zest. I would wonder, what do they run on? ‘Aviation fuel’, would be my best guess.
I got my keyhole view into the world of ‘dedicated’ docs when I worked with one, and to my great fortune, for one whole week. The experience of length of time is relative to the experience you have with the time. Every second seems an hour long when you are waiting for your date to show up, and an hour seems shorter when that is all the time you got to spend with your loved one.
Well, before I digress farther, I need to retrace. So, this week I worked with Dr. Climb (as I will refer to him), and he is one of the most experienced, knowledgeable, respected and loved Attendings in our program. There was so much I learnt from the week, more than you could fill into just seven days. This may be because I got to witness his daily schedule hour by hour. And these luxuries don’t come so often in the hustle bustle of a hospital.
Dr. Climb’s day always started before the sun. He would be at the hospital early, doing his ‘pre-round’ paperwork, dictations and discharge plans. He would then round, patiently on every patient, meet with the families and answer all their queries. I would often catch him in some corner computer room, helping out a newly recruited Attending with the nuances of ‘billing’, or discussing with a small group of med-students about ‘this interesting case’ on his service. For one, he seemed to have the time for one and all, and had so much to give others out of his day.
And then later in the afternoon, I would meet with him to discuss about a minor chunk (although a big number in itself!) of his patient’s that I was taking care of. His attention and patient care, even at the end of the day, was ‘wholesome’. We would do ‘walking’ rounds on every patient, sit down to discuss the plan, and finish off with the wisdom pearl.
Close towards evening, after seeing all the ‘follow-up’ patients (those that we have been following all week) and the ‘new’ ones, I would be exhausted. And there have been times, when the thought of rounds at the end of an already late day, sounded murderous to me. But Dr. Climb would walk in with a big smile hiding those sunken and tired eyes, and say, ‘You know, I had this interesting patient today….’ and continue the story in a velvet voice. There must be something about this man that, at the end of his story, you feel like you just drank a Redbull, and are raring to go for another round of rounds. The fatigue fatigues. You bounce back!
What is it that keeps him going? There is another doctor (heart-surgeon) I grew up in awe of, who once said, ‘Skill, is what you can teach, but what you cannot is Passion’.
So, that was the secret of Dr. Climb. It was no rocket science any more, and not aviation fuel that kept him running…(well, I confirmed that one after being around for one whole week). His work seemed to always excite him. Even after working day after day for a fortnight without a weekend, he still came to work full of life, looking forward to another day of excitement. Every patient was interesting, every diagnostic dilemma was challenging, a mystery waiting to be solved, every difficult family was a learning experience. There is something to envy and imbibe about these folks.
They ooze and enthuse with energy. He taught me a bit more than medicine… to love my work despite the vagaries of long hours and tough terrains, to care for patients unbiased and to keep going.
So what my mum said was right. So long, until we discover that passion and that purpose that charms. When you really enjoy what you do, it’s no longer work and work becomes play.
“Work fascinates me, I can watch it for hours.” -- Calvin and Hobbes