17 May 2008

I am going to be a better doctor, I have decided. A bit late for my New Year’s resolution, I agree, but better late then never.

Two things have led to this decision. One, I’ve just had a week’s holiday, so I can finally think a bit more clearly. (I’ve also just noticed that it’s spring and that there are leaves on trees; when did that happen?) Two, I read the book “Better” by Atul Gawande. At the risk of sounding really pathetic and promoting self-help books (which this isn’t, by the way), I have to say that this book is a real inspiration, and I strongly recommend it to anyone, particularly those working in health care. It is a collection of stories about doctors achieving more than usual. And not because they’re bettter at the politics and dirty tricks to get ahead in the ultra-hierarchical world of medicine, but just because they’re fighting, trying as hard as they can, and a bit more.

Lately, I have become really frustrated with working in a (university) hospital. The masses of paperwork and thick walls of bureaucracy make it seemingly impossible to change even the smallest things. Not to mention the beeper that never stops beeping, interrupting my work every ten minutes or more. It is then very easy to forget that we’re working with people, sick people, who are worried about their health, future, the pain they’re having or expecting to have. For most of us, the easiest way of dealing with our frustrations, constant pressure and chronic lack of sleep is by ignoring our patients’ human aspect and by denying any additional responsibilities towards them. Although we’d like to believe otherwise, this makes us just fairly average at our jobs. Not good.

So, I will work harder, despite the difficulties of system I’m working in, to be a better doctor. Because if patients can’t even trust us to have their best interest in mind, who can they? Certainly not the billions of hospital managers. And I will not complain about the health care system anymore… although I’m not quite sure how long I’ll be able to keep that one up.

Oh, how will I do all this? Well, read the book. And I’ll also need more holidays, obviously.