For Two Young Doctors, Working on Christmas Was a Privilege
At holiday time, interns are approaching the midpoint of their year. That’s long enough to feel committed to their chosen path but not nearly far enough along to see the finish line’s banners. Doubts amplify.
Combine the low emotional ebb with the knowledge that more of our patients die at this time of year, and interns feel understandably vulnerable. Many wonder at this point if they’ve made the right professional choice. In extreme cases, they wonder if they’ll survive.
I remember lamenting my first December having to work straight through. A wise mentor helped me reframe my self-pity. “It’s a privilege to work on Christmas,” he told me. “Our patients count on us. You may not want to be in the hospital, but think of what they’re going through.” He smiled, as if he were welcoming me to a special club, one that I wasn’t wholeheartedly ready to join. “Your mere presence helps reduce each patient’s sense of loss.”
I was rotating in intensive care, where the outlook for patients can be quite grim on any day, regardless of the season.
A 30-something patient I’ll call Will was brought in after paramedics found him unconscious on the street.
He was in a coma. We didn’t know the cause, but set to work trying to give him every opportunity to arise from the slumber of his critical illness.