Five misconceptions you probably have about your friendly medical resident

I think sometimes people have gross misinterpretations of what being in medicine is like.

It frustrates me immensely sometimes, but I think we all have preconceived notions or expectations of certain people and certain professions.

Take teachers, for example.  I am married to one and several of my friends teach.  But, everyone assumes they just work when kids are in school and that they get so much time off.  But, they have homework too.  Prep time goes way beyond school hours.  And they invest a lot of their own money in classroom supplies.  So, it kind of cancels out.  Plus, kids are exhausting.

Medicine is a bit of a unique culture.  Everyone tends to picture a stereotypical male, white coat wearing, paternalistic doctor who works endless hours and is yet mysteriously always available for whatever they have to do (minus, perhaps, family life).  And I think there are still some influences from that generation of doctor. But, medicine has changed significantly over the past number of years from the stereotypes.  And on the other side, there are many aspects of medicine that most people may not realize or think of.

And thus, I bring you five assumptions I have been confronted with of late.

  1. All physicians are old, male and wear a white coat.  Not true.  I am a resident, which means I am a doctor doing additional training in a specialty.  I am female.  I am “you look young for a doctor” kind of young.  I only wear a white coat when I am cold, things could get messy or I am on a busy floor rotation.  I have written a white coat rant previously.  But, these days, there are equal volumes of males and females in medicine (although my field is still somewhat male predominant).  And I am not Dougie Houser, I just did things in a progression that had me graduating at 25.
  2. I get time of in lieu of call days.  No.  I get paid to be on call.  A lump sum per night.  It is not overwhelmingly lucrative at my level of training, but it is required.  Just because I work all weekend does not mean I will be off half the next week.  Just because I carry a pager all day and night does not equate my being available for a social event the following day.  In fact, I have to work and will probably be sleepy.  And sometimes I am a bit cranky or slow at work because I was up part of the night or in really early to help someone who was really sick.
  3. My hours are flexible.  Actually, quite the opposite.  I sometimes get to choose my call shifts, and when I can go in to work or leave beyond the confines of 8-5 working hours, but really, flexibility ends there.  I can’t take a few hours off of call to attend your event (though I can come if you are within 30 minutes of the hospital and my pager doesn’t go off).  I work every day that is not a stat holiday (and some of those too).  Although I carry my phone, I cannot always answer it.  And I really should not answer most of the time.  Please stop asking if I am working on day x.  If it is a work day and I didn’t announce vacation time, then I am working.
  4. Not every resident is going to be a family doctor.  I am asked all the time if I am going to be a GP.  I get it.  There is a very severe doctor shortage locally.  People are desperate.  But I just told you I am training in oncology.  But further to that, people who become specialists do not have spare time on the side to have a family practice.  I can’t take those imaginary afternoons off to see patients in a clinic or work in an evening clinic regularly.  My job is a full time (plus) job too.  I can’t be a family doctor in my spare time and still see my family.  Besides, I am actually not and will not be licensed as a GP.  Unlike what TV shows like Everwood portray, one can’t just quite neurosurgery and take up rural family practice without a hitch.
  5. Residents and doctors do have lives and families outside of medicine.  I would think this is obvious.  But, I have had people who were shocked that I go to church and have friends and a husband.  I have also had people who know I have a life who were shocked that I did so well in medical school.  I have also had a number of people (both medical and not) who have commented that I probably should never have children or it would be a waste of my training.  Nowhere does it say physicians can’t have children.  I have worked with many people who balance motherhood and medicine.  In the same breath, it is not easy, but they do it.   Medicine is not the be all end all.  There are things outside of it.  And I want children.  I would regardless of my career choice.  It is discrimination to say that one can’t have kids because they happened to choose a particular career.  In the same breath, you have to find replacements and such, but it can be done without severely damaging patient care.
  6. Bonus: We know everything and should be perfect.  I don’t know about you, but I am nowhere near perfect.  I make mistakes all the time.  I am not an expert in my field.  I am here to learn.  I know enough to not kill people, but I will be honest and say when I am not sure.  And sometimes I have bad days and good days and in between days.  I try not to let it affect people around me, but sometimes it does.

There you go… My rant.

I find it amazing the assumptions people have.  Even those closest to me.

But, when you get down to it, we all have assumptions.  From what the sketchy guy on the street is about to do to how sweet that little old man must be.  Sometimes we are right, but sometimes we are wrong.

I just wish we would assume less and just ask honest questions and give honest answers.  Some misconceptions could be corrected if people just entered with blank slates.

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7 thoughts on “Five misconceptions you probably have about your friendly medical resident

  1. you may have written about this elsewhere on your blog…but I was curious as to your interest in oncology? Any idea on what there is about that field that you’re drawn to? We’ve just recently watched a friend of ours loose first her husband to brain cancer (about 2 1/2 yrs ago) then just last month, her only son (age 32) to cancer….it’s crazy how often and how random that stuff strikes…is it just me or does there seem to be more of it now than ever? The area of Iowa where we live supposedly has a higher concentration of certain types of cancer than other areas of the US which makes me think that in part, it is environmental thanks for the rant. I love hearing about stuff like this. DM

    • Interestingly enough, I haven’t really fully written on why I am in Oncology. I will have to do that. It has a lot to do with a combination of family influences, my love of people and technology and a strange series of events that kept me in to the field.
      Wow, that is too bad to hear about your friend. It sounds very difficult. It blows my mind how these things happen to people.
      As for the influences of environment and such, there are masses of research into it. Cancer diagnoses are more predominant today, partly because people are living long enough to get it And we are getting better at diagnosing it, but things like environment make a big change too… Chemicals and such. Maybe I will do some reading into it and give more of a formal response.
      Thanks for reading! I always find your engagement encouraging!

      • Thanks,…side note…the family with all of the cancer are believers..the husband and wife were our mentors for several issues…dear,dear woman. as her son was diagnosed w/ stage 4 something…it was like watching Mary walk with Jesus to the cross. I know she was just beginning to get her bearings emotionally after the loss of her husband…JUST…and this last year was a nightmare medically….the physical pain (even with strong medicine) boggled my mind. won’t go into all of that here. I told her she needed to @ some point share her experience in writing somehow..it reminded me of when CS Lewis lost his wife Joy…..in spite of his deep faith and intellectual depth, he was a mess. his journal (A Grief Observed) is powerful stuff. There is so much confusion in the Christian community about grieving, dealing with suffering in a healthy way/ giving people space to process this stuff.I’m sure you’ll have some experiences as you continue your chosen career watching people suffer that will sift and put your faith to the test, and I am encouraged that you have a tender heart toward the Lord, you’re not afraid to ask hard questions, and seem to be a person who hungers after truth.

      • I am glad the family were all believers. I find people who are do better in some ways with this stuff, though really it is a struggle regardless. The journey in illness and caregiving is such a difficult one, but many people, just like your friend do it and do it well despite the difficulty. She should write a book (if that is something she becomes open to), it would be a good outlet for her and possibly helpful to others in similar circumstances.
        I find it tough to grapple with the way we handle grief and struggle/suffering in the Christian community. I watched my best friend’s father die of a combination of heart and liver failure as a minister in the church and the response of different people, including the family to the suffering he was in and the response to his death. Christian funerals are uplifting, but it still doesn’t heal those who are left behind. I still can’t believe some of the things people said or did in both good and bad ways.
        My career definitely puts my faith to the test. But, really, some initial work in this field helped bring me to faith. I can’t fathom this being it. That there is nothing beyond the suffering.
        Thanks again for sharing your/your friend’s story. I appreciate hearing from you!

    • Ugh, that sounds brutal. My schedule has been fairly decent because we are hours restricted on this rotation to 7 call per month. So, I do one full Friday to Monday morning weekend.
      And yes, I have had several people assume I got days in exchange for call. I have no clue where they got the idea.
      Glad you liked the rant!

  2. Pingback: Tomato-Tomato: Answering some questions of distinction from the world of medicine. « At least we made it this far…

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