Monday, April 20, 2009

ugly confession.PATIENCE

He held the door open for me as we briskly walked out of the office. With a guiltless look on my face I said, “Jon, do I come across stand-off-ish or something?”

And he was honest. He told me that Yes, I did come across like I was just a bit superior to the lady working the desk; that Yes, I did treat her poorly like I was in a hurry to get the answer, and that Yes, I needed to work on it.

This whole experience in medical school, seeing patients, spending hours & days studying by myself, pulling myself through the firey ring of tests & exams & clinical experiences, all of this has undoubtedly changed me.

In many ways, it is for the better. I am more acutely aware of the fragility of life, the inevitability of death, and the gift of health. I look at my husband, my parents, my siblings differently—I see the life in them instead of focusing on the day I’ll lose them as I used to. I am more attentive to the darker side of life: the addictions, the illnesses, the horrible situations that surround the lives of some Biblical-Job-like individuals. And in an entirely different way, all of my experiences have culminated in me desparately trying to just be a better person: to throw aside my worries, to trust the One who put together my days, & to accept my life as it comes serving my Lord, my husband, & my community in the meantime.

On the other side of the coin, however, I have changed for the worse. And in many ways, the parts of my personality, my social-ability, & my compassion have been lost in the shuffle, consumed by the selfish requests of the masses of life-sucking patients.

I used to look at the store clerk, the grocery bagger, the retail assistant & pour out compassion on them. I used to try to relate to them, to be patient with who they are & to meet them where they are at.

But somehow, somewhere along the way, I’ve lost it. I’ve lost my compassion. I’ve misplaced my ability to kindly relate to them.

Each day when I head to work, I’m required to put a smile on my face. With my uterus cramping, my emotions on a roller coaster, my sinuses full of snot, my head pounding, it doesn’t matter: I need to put the patients first, to throw aside my own opinions & judgements & emotions & faith, I need to focus solely, completely, & totally on them. In the midst of listening to her complain about her sore fingernail & him complain about peeing too often & her tell me about her failing relationship & him boast about how many sexual encounters he has had in the last month, I have to reach into the depths of my love-tank & pull out another smile, another nod of approval, another ounce of patience. I’m expected to respond quickly. I’m required to welcome them back to the office. And it is vital I do all of this in 15-20 minutes. Per patient. Which means I have to be quick. I have to talk fast, work quickly, & make decisions almost immediately.

And all this serves me well—in the office or hospital. But outside of the medical environment, outside of those sterile white walls & hard hospital beds, away from the bleeps of machines & sobs of patients’ families, those traits that I’ve acquired to be a better someday-Doctor hinder me.

I’m short with the office clerk. I’m rushed when the grocery bagger bags my fresh produce. I’m particular & overly opinionated with the hairstylist. I’m all-too-degrading in my direction-giving to the man in line behind me at Starbucks.

I’ve changed. I’ve changed for my job, because of my job, & in many ways in spite of my job.

Jon told me I needed to work on better separating work & home, job & family.

I think he is right.

Where do you need a dose of change in your life? In what areas have you grown calloused toward showing the compassion of Christ through words, actions, or service? Who in your life is willing to be honest with you about your actions towards others?


Jodie said...

brett has been brutally honest with me about something i need to change lately too. unfortunately i'm not quite as brave as you to write about it here. but next time we talk (i'll call soon) i would love to reflect on it with you.

Aubrey said...

I definitely have this problem too. I think medicine tends to make us cynical, impatient, and judgemental. I notice it when I'm admitting patients, when I listen to people share prayer requests, when I'm just out and about in town. It really is a problem. More than anything, I hope to be a great doctor - great because I always love and respect my patients and treat them like I should. And like I treat the people I interact with outside work like I love them and respect them, too. other news, I'm actually going to be doing a rotation for a couple of week at Fort Bragg, to get some extra OB experience. If you have any questions about family medicine or the match, or anything else, maybe we could get together for coffee.

I start May 6, and will be there until the 19th.

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