Considering the horrifying buildup the other residents had been giving it, the ABSITE wasn’t that bad. That is to say, I recognized the subject matter of more than half the questions, rather than the 30% I had been expecting. Now it’s over, and I can spend one evening without feeling guilty about needing to study.

One of my friends, back when I was a pre-med student, started off wanting to go to medical school. Halfway through college, she decided that she wanted to be able to spend more time with patients, so she switched to nursing, even though it cost her some semesters. With her perpetual enthusiasm and cheerfulness, I’m sure she’s a wonderful nurse.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking that the great thing about this year is that, without exactly setting out to, I am getting to spend a lot of time with my patients – probably more than I ever will again. The chiefs and the attendings think they’re the ones taking care of the patients, and in one sense they are. They’re making the decisions and doing the surgeries; and in office visits, the attendings make very strong relationships with the patients. But when they’re in the hospital, I’m the one who sees them at least three times a day, and usually more. I’m the one who has the time and the patience to listen to how their grand-daughter is going to medical school, and their son would have come to visit them in the hospital, except for this horrible new job he has, or all the details about how their belly feels and their bowels are working (or not, more often); or I get to hear how frustrated they are with their weakness, and how long the road ahead looks. Apart from the nurses, who are the real frontlines, and every day point out things I’ve missed about their condition, I’m the one who spends the most time with the team’s patients.

It’s kind of fun, actually. By this point in the month I’ve once again resigned myself to hardly ever operating, and I’m free to enjoy taking very thorough care of “my people.” (One of the neurosurgery seniors used to tease me mercilessily about general surgeons talking about their “people.” I had no idea what he meant. Now I say it all the time, because I mean it: they belong to me, and I take care of them.) I like being able to look at my patient list and see a long line of checked-off things to do. I like walking around the rooms and having people say they feel better now that I fixed x y or z, or that they appreciate me checking on them. Now that I’ve given up on the OR for the month, this is very nice. I could almost do this for a long time – but every time I catch a sight of the OR, it starts eating at me again. I won’t be really happy till I’m solidly inside.

It’s starting to pay back, too. The attendings are telling me about patients in their office, on follow-up visits, talking about the girl who took good care of them during their stay in the hospital. Now, those are the kind of patients I really like!  😉

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