Dear Patient

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I was once asked by a patient, “Doc, hindi kaba napapagod sa trabaho mo?” (Doctor, don’t you ever get tired of your work?)

It was 3 in the morning at PGH, and I was pushing a stretcher where my pre-eclamptic patient laid, from the OB Admitting Section to the Perinatology Office for cardiotocometry. I did not know how to answer; instead I was left into tears.

That moment reminded me of my days at Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital where I spent my junior internship as a medical student –a hospital which I think is one of the best training grounds for aspiring doctors. When I was a junior intern, I cannot remember the number of times I have asked myself questions similar to the one asked by my patient: “Why am I here? Why am I depriving myself of sleep, food, and comfort that the rest of my non-medical friends are enjoying? And what? End up being scolded during conferences for not doing enough?”

Social scientists believe that people are commercialistic in general -we do one thing to gain something. So this thought made me ask myself “What’s in it for us, doctors? What wakes us up every single day, makes us wear that white coat, grab our stethoscope and rush to the hospital?”

It’s definitely not money –because we would’ve earned a lot more and faster in the corporate world.

It’s definitely not the spotlight –because the spotlight in medical training means getting on the podium and answering all sorts of questions from different medical consultants. This exercise often makes us, doctors, realize that no matter how hard we study, we still haven’t learned enough, and that we would always miss that one piece of information which we think was irrelevant only to be told that it is very pertinent.

It’s definitely not the hierarchy –because we all know that you’ll be bad-mouthed by your juniors if you treat them badly, and how the nurses can tear up parts of your patients’ charts if you’re being a bitch to them.

So what is in Medicine? What makes us endure the training? What makes us prioritize our patients more than our own families? And the question at the end of the day: Is this all worth it?

I can’t answer these questions for all doctors, but I’d love to share my thoughts by writing a letter in reply to the query of my patient.

Dear Patient,

I am sorry if I wasn’t able to answer your question immediately. I was just too tired, too hungry, and pre-occupied by a lot of things. But that question is too memorable for it has been asked by a lot of people, even by myself. So to answer your question:

Yes, I get tired -for I am also human.

Yes, I get hungry -for I am not exempted from the basic physiology of the gastrointestinal system.

Yes, I stink –for I am already 30+ hours post duty, but I still have to review your chart, make notes, and update my seniors / residents.

Yes, my handwriting sucks–for I have copied lecture notes from conferences, made tons of prescriptions and laboratory requests, written history, physical examination findings, and incoming / outgoing notes –all within a day’s work.

Yes, I may have to answer the call by my parents while pushing your wheelchair to the radiology department –for I have not seen them for months now.

Yes, I maybe jolly at times and quiet most of the time –for I just had 3 hours of sleep last night to study your case for today’s pre-operative conference.

Yes, I am saddened every time you tell me that you have no money for your medical procedure –for I will again be forced to spend part of my allowance / income just to have your laboratories done.

Yes, you may have seen me with tears as I walked out of our conference room –for I have just been reprimanded by my seniors for not looking for a journal that supports my decision in a dilemma I have encountered in preparing your treatment plan.

I know that you are going through a lot of things during your hospital stay. But may you never forget that we, your doctors, also go out of our comfort zones and give all that we can to provide you the best care possible.

And you know what’s the best thing about us, your doctors? It’s the fact that if ever we get burned out today, tomorrow is another day –another day for us to wake up in the wee hours of the morning, brew our coffee, hit our books, rush to the hospital, present you in conferences, and finally see you during our rounds.

All of these simply for the joy of seeing you get better.

People often say that doctors play god. But in all honesty, we do not play god; rather, we allow ourselves to be used by God.

All that we ask from you is that you pray for us, your doctors, that we will never get tired of maintaining that sacred connection between God, ourselves, and you –for He was, is, and will always be the True Healer, and because He is the only nourishment that can sustain us in our quest towards making you as healthy as possible.

Thank you.

Love,

Your Doctors

120 Replies to “Dear Patient”

  1. very well said bro 🙂 ako nung tinanong ako nyan, jinoke ko na lang yung patient haha nakakapagod sagutin yung tanong e haha

  2. I love this reflection. Reminds us that we are all part of an inner circle called Life and that it only comes from God, and that our mission is to keep that circle intact. That is why I chose to be a doctor. It is the most noble profession in this world.

  3. You Doctors are the silent heroes who makes patient’s lives more comfortable . Thank you and Godbless you…

  4. nice one Fred…your question-is it worth it?yes…i am a doctor like you…i trained at pgh too for fellowship…it’s definitely worth it…keep on keeping on.The world needs doctors like you-those who believe that their vocation is linked to God..as my mentor once told me…”we only dress the wound,it’s God who heals it.””

  5. I share the pains, sufferings, triumphs and successes of doctors through my daughter who is also a doctor. I salute all doctors as they occupy the noblest of all professions. They are God’s instruments to save human lives. We should include them in our daily prayers!!!!!

    By: Raul C. Miralles
    Pohnpei, Micronesia

  6. This is the feeling I felt when i was in school.. Now in training I still feel the same.. Minsan diko rin maisip, kung naiisip ba ng pasyente natin na tao Lang din tayo?

    Or naiisip din ba nila na napapagod at nagugutom din tayo?

    Isipin mo nalang lagi, at least nakakatulong tayo..

    Tulud nito, pagkatapos ng comment ko, me pasyente sa baba na naghihintay sa akin, habang oras na ng pahinga ko…

    Me magagawa ba ako..
    Wala, mas gusto ko kasi tumbling..

    Darwin g. Cruz M.D.

  7. Very well said, doctor. You, and others ‘like’ you, deserve to be called such title in every sense of the word. Words escape me after reading this entry. I’d like you to know, though, that I am very thankful to God for crafting such a human being who is never perfect but is quite wonderful.

  8. Sadly very true……..dear doctors……your reward awaits you in heaven for all your sacrifices…….for us parents….let us understand and give support to our doctors for doing such a great job for humanity.I salute ang more power.GOD BLESS …..

  9. Brilliantly said. Thank you so much to all the doctors who do their best for the betterment of their patients, More power and energy for your relentless search for cure and remedy. May the Lord reward your efforts and sacrifices.

  10. Thank you for writing this piece.I can relate to what you wrote because I had my residency training at CLMMRH, too. Just ask Dr. Ma Teresa Villaruz-Jochico. We went on duty every other day. I don’t know how we did it…. maybe we just love our work not to whine.

  11. May I say because you do not want to commit the,

    “Seven Deadly Sins:
    Wealth without work
    Pleasure without conscience
    Science without humanity
    Knowledge without character
    Politics without principle
    Commerce without morality
    Worship without sacrifice.”
    ― Mahatma Gandhi
    I once told your cousin Edward “It is a lifetime of sacrifice”.
    It is really an honor to be related to you, uncle Ed.

  12. tears flowed. . . .memories flooded back. . .everything to the dot. . . .yet,compassion overwhelms the weariness.and after more than a dacade of medical practise,i still pray for all our patients that Jehovah Rapah will take control. . . .

  13. Its a lifetime commitment. Somebody has to do the job especially if you are in a remote area. You are very tired already but you need to finish the task.

  14. All the hard work, emotional stress, sleepless nights, hunger, and bad smell we went through i guess are the important things that will always make us grounded as doctors. All worth it! I just love being a doctor. We should all feel the same or else we will not have the reason to wake up early everyday & go to work.

  15. As a 2nd year med student, I can’t completely understand the part where you have to present cases and do stuff related to direct patient care. We’re still far from experiencing all those to the extent that you have, but this article really reminds us of our purpose. In times when med students doubt their decision in pursuing medicine, why we face all these difficult tasks, we are reminded that we are not doing this for our own benefit, but also for the benefit of everyone who is in need of our services. Offering ourselves to be instruments of our Father.

  16. very reminiscent of our days in training. kmi nun wala pang celfone or facebook. in times when we were not in the hospital, we just sleep because that’s luxury n for us. but PGI is just d second step, residency training and subspecialty training will still come and you have to endure more but stay resilient & be super human. when u reach my age of 50, the rewards are already great… as a person, as a doctor and as god’s special envoy to mankind. Faster than d speeding bullet in driving d stretcher & wheel chair, more powerful than the automotive in enduring sleepless duties & harrassing consultants. its a bird..its a plane… its just us doctors.

  17. This is so amazing. Im not a doctor but i will be, for d same reasons that was already mentioned above.

    I love the part where you mentioned that doctors are instruments of God in healing.

    :))

  18. 🙂 My ate sent this link to me. Then I realized, it’s you Fred! The intern that had such a heart at helping the sick and curious about everything. It was a pleasure knowing you, Fred. You will be a great doctor. I’m sure of it. May you inspire more people. God bless you.

    PGH, DFCM Resident

  19. ei fred! thanks for writing up what im sure most of us doctors have in our hearts and minds. shared ur post btw 🙂 i read it the second time, still cant help tears from rolling down my eyes. maybe its not really just my pregnancy blues i guess… haha. hope you learned a lot and had fun in ob 🙂 God bless! 🙂

  20. Nicely written. I can still remember while I was still in residency training, I had to bring my own son to the hospital because he was severely dehydrated. I was in such a desperate situation because I only had 40 pesos in my wallet and my monthly salary (more of an allowance is more like it) wasn’t due for at least two weeks away. I kept asking myself if it was really worth it. Patients should really be made aware of what we go through specially those who treat us as if they own us just because they are paying our professional fees.

  21. Had my training in both public and private hospitals. Both are toxic in different ways but still toxic. Echoing your sentiments. We lack food, sleep, rest, funds and sometimes even our health is at stake-hypertension, diabetes etc. After we graduate, we are bombarded by fees and dues even before we start our practice. It would seem that 1/2 of our lives is spent being dependent on our parents financially. Sometimes we forget to pray for ourselves and our families, but we are very earnest in praying for our patients. Our own selves and our families always take a back seat. At the end of the day though, it is worth it.

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