There is a sense of the sacred in what we do. It is a privilege to share in our patients' lives - both the best and the worst times.
As we come up to Thanksgiving later this week, I think it is appropriate to consider all the reasons we can be grateful that we are able to enjoy a career in medicine.
1. The ability to be with people at the best and worst times of their lives.
A colleague recently told me about the loss of a close family member. While the loss is devastating, she reflected on the exceptional care provided by the ICU staff, who went out of their way to help the family member reconcile with a sibling from whom he was estranged. Despite the significant loss, she had warm feelings about the staff. While we don't always have control over life and death, we can always choose to help transitions and sad events be treated with the importance and respect they deserve.
2. A chance to be a part of people's lives on a large scale.
I am often put in the position of seeing somebody at the store, a local restaurant, or the gym who is vaguely familiar to me, but who knows who I am. It is often a patient, and they usually have something positive to tell me about how I helped them in one way or the other. While I wish I could remember everyone I meet in clinic, I am happy to know that what I did for them was memorable.
3. Respect of colleagues, patients, and society.
While the physician has lost some of the prestige the role enjoyed in the mid-20th century, doctors are still respected by their patients, given a powerful voice in the field of medicine, and generally admired by society.
4. Intellectual challenge is present most days.
While many problems - strep throat or an appendectomy - are very rote, and are managed without significant thought, there are numerous opportunities to challenge your brain. I love that I still get stumped by patients and that I often have to go back to the literature to find out an answer.
5. Our colleagues.
While we don't always get along, even those who've had personality clashes can often work together to take care of a patient. For the most part, there is a sense of the sacred in what we do. We adhere to a set of unwritten rules for how we treat patients and it is unusual for doctors to violate those principles. Despite getting awakened in the middle of the night, we can still come together in the OR, ER bay, or delivery room to quickly provide care.