As a doctor, do I actually celebrate Doctors’ Day? Do I think I should be celebrated and honored for my work? My service? My sacrifices?
I spent more time than I would like to admit thinking about this post. Thinking about what this day actually means to me.
The last 2 months I haven’t published a post on this blog. I have remained silent for so many reasons. Crazy schedules, work trips, illness, moving into a new home, school work. LIFE.
And as I contemplate Doctors’ Day, I cannot help but think back to how I appreciate the OTHER doctors in my life.
I think about the patient who had an unexpected complication and died suddenly in the intensive care unit before the family could arrive. I think about how hard it was to tell that family on arrival that we had done everything we could and yet it was not enough. I think about the extreme grief, the tears, the yells, the frustration and disbelief. And then I think about the physician friend I spoke to later that night, in tears from the overwhelming loss. The quiet listening, the solidarity of the silence, and the words that reminded me that disease and death cannot be prevented forever, no matter how hard we try. Yet as doctors, admitting this is not easy. Sometimes we need a friend and colleague to remind us.
I think about the colleague who was caring for a difficult case without clear answers who called asking for a second opinion, for help, because medicine is not all clear cut. There are not protocols or algorithms for everything. Sometimes we need help from other physicians to provide the best care we can. Asking for help in medicine is not weakness, it is a demonstration of the years of expertise in action and recognizing that sometimes two (or twelve) brains are better than one.
I think about the hours spent with colleagues working on research, writing papers, giving talks and learning together at conferences. Time away from families, friends and our lives that are not vacations but in fact time often outside of the office; on nights and weekends in which we forge ahead as a collaborative battle line to improve medicine as a whole for future generations through science and education.
Finally, I think about the physicians we have lost. Those tragically taken from us too soon. Some have been lost to illness or accident. Some are lost to us as physicians as they leave this line of work because the culture and world of medicine became too much. And some we lose completely to suicide. The heartbreaking loss of another physician. In these losses, in the moments of extraordinary darkness, we find the strength of physicians pulling together to support one another in grief, to care for colleagues and extend help. The deep beauty and commitment to those called to spend their lives caring for others, including each other. Because even in the depths of grief, there will always be another patient who needs our help.
So, do doctors celebrate Doctors’ Day? I am not sure that we celebrate it in the way Hallmark would suggest. I think we celebrate it not for ourselves, but in deep, sometimes wordless, appreciation of our colleagues. In recognition of the commitment and care of our colleagues. And at the end of the day, we do not toast ourselves. We toast our colleagues and silently strive to improve. To be worthy of the thank you, the note of appreciation, the calling.