Friday, August 19, 2005

Avoiding the pain of death

Got a call this morning from a friend. One of her patients had died. She was distraught to say the least. She is a resident in an obstrectrics/gynecology program. Her patient was having a baby by caesarean section. Apparently she went into some sort of respiratory distress, and did progressively worse. It was my friend's second death as a physician. She specifically told me that she went into OB/Gyn just so she wouldn't have to deal with death. I honestly had nothing to say to her. First of all I don't know how to talk to crying women. Second of all, She really had a right to be upset, there's really nothing to say. She really does put herself into her job.

This has been much different from my experience. I of course am in a different field. There is much more "volatility" in anesthesia. We deal with critical patients all the time. I, myself, have had particularly bad luck in this respect. I watched one of my patients bleed to death on my first day of anesthesia residency. It was very traumatic. I considered not coming back for a second day. Then I realized that was part of the job that I come there to do. I still remember that day vividly. I don't think i've had a case that bad since. I also had a patient die my first call as a attending staff. We did everything we could to keep that patient alive for three hours, but nothing helped. That was also very "character-building".

So how do we avoid death as physicians? The only way I can think is to avoid taking care of patients. I could quit tomorrow to drive a cab or work at Blockbuster. At what cost? I could throw away years of schooling and hard work, I could throw out the desire to practice good medicine. Unacceptable. I enjoy my work, but as a result I need to be able to deal with death. Hopefully not very often though.

My friend needs to learn this too... I think she'll come around. She's worked hard to get where she is... unfortunately she's pretty miserable these days. Hopefully as she gets further into her residency she will enjoy her work as much as I enjoy mine.

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