On the Practice of Medicine and Humanity

I have learned that it is easy to study for anatomy and chemistry classes.
It is easy to shadow physicians and volunteer in hospitals.
It is easy to get involved in extracurricular activities.
It is easy to practice the technical elements of medicine.

It is not easy, however, to care for patients. It is not easy to walk into a room and start a conversation with someone who is dealing with terminal cancer. It is not easy to see a mother come into the hospital because she’s suffering from serious symptoms and she’s trying to hide just how scared she is… scared in part because she can’t afford to be there; in part because she’s worried that her condition is life-threatening; in part because she’s thinking about everyone and everything she may leave behind if it is.

It is difficult to know if a patient really understands what you’re saying – whether you’re being clear enough; whether they’re able to cut through their anxieties to truly hear what you’re saying. It is difficult to watch someone die. It is even more difficult to watch someone try to prepare for their death. It is difficult to watch a family member struggle to comprehend the fact that they’ll never see their loved one again.

It is difficult to listen to people — I mean really listen to people; to try and put yourself in their shoes; to understand their concerns and experiences. It is especially difficult to do this when you’re rushed to get to the next patient. It is difficult to take responsibility for someone else’s well-being and to carry their burdens on your shoulders.

Being a medical practitioner, I think, is much more than being able to diagnose an illness and create a treatment plan —

It’s about tapping into the very essence of what it means to be human.

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