Brian Nuyen, MS3 at UCSD SOM
I fantasize about rounding with a rock.
A black rock.
A rock so black it sucks vision from your eyes. WHOOOOPH! Like that.
We round with our rock. We go to this pregnant woman with fulminant hepatitis, writhing and screaming in pain. She puts just one finger on it, and the rock sucks everything away.
It takes away how dilaudid makes her itchy. It takes away her bed sores. It takes out her dehydration, her constipation.
It takes out her cancer, her ragged war zone of a liver, her dehydration, her addictions.
Her abusive husband. Her burning embarrassment that four grown men are staring at her hairy vagina and prodding it at 8 fucking AM in the morning. Her fear and knowledge of impending death.
It gives her back her own dignity, strength, and goodness.
We round among all our patients, and they all touch this amazing black hole of a rock.
But don’t forget! Medical students can touch this rock too.
When I touch it, it takes away my bitterness and my disappointment. My disappointment in those patients that deceive and abuse us.
How the Olympics of our bitter woes is an arms race of who gets to go home first with their idealism intact.
It takes away my hot, humid shame; my needy, snarling critic inside me that has accelerated me to my achievements but in this hospital everyday is my worst enemy.
My disappointment in my immaturity, my rapidly maturing cynicism, my acidic laziness.
This black rock gives me back my own dignity, strength, and goodness.
It makes me remember how amazed I was to just hold my stethoscope, instead of going home bowed and cursing its weight.
No one has ever told me a satisfactory answer to this question: how do we empathize with our patients without getting burned out or bitter? They tell me empathy is the antidote to burnout, but why do some doctors that care the most end up suffering the most?
And that’s when I came up with this rock. This rock is fucking awesome.