We often get caught up in the next.
The next deadline. The next exam. The next rotation. The next clinic. The next patient. The next… the next… the next.
It is far too easy to lose sight of the now in the next. To forget what it is that makes us feel alive, the reason why we do what we do.
If there is one thing I have learned in my almost five years at medical school, it’s that those moments of clarity, of this is why I’m here are utterly critical. On the days where it feels relentless, where it’s one seemingly insurmountable challenge after another, it’s those moments that get us up in the morning and bring us home with a smile on our face. It’s the one successful cannula in a series of failed bloods. It’s the patient you get to reassure through a long and uncomfortable procedure. It’s the time a busy surgeon, a busy doctor recognises your potential.
Over the years I have discovered that taking a step back and pausing is frequently the best medicine when things get too much and I am losing sight of the bigger picture. It looks different in different seasons of life. Right now it’s reading books that remind me why I adore medicine. Currently, Do No Harm by Henry Marsh. Before that When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.
In the past it has looked like listening to podcasts, a personal favourite being The Resus Room. Other times it was writing down the occasions where a doctor or supervisor has complimented me on something I’ve done well, or I’m particularly proud of something I did (treasure these moments people: they’ll carry you through when you feel like an utter failure). Right now it looks like being awake at 1 am writing.
Sometimes it even looks like taking a complete break from medicine and allowing my mind to reset. It is amazing how a brief hiatus can give you the chance to decompress and recalibrate. On the other hand, sometimes studying a topic I love is the way to go.
Whatever it is for you, embrace it.
I firmly believe that while medicine is a career, it is also a lifestyle, a calling. It is not something we have to do. It is something we get to do. We get to come face to face with life and death, and hold the hands of fellow humans as they walk through some of the most challenging times of their lives. We get to be there at the start of life and at the end.
Not many people can say that.
And when we lose sight of that, we lose sight of the beauty of what we do. Of the privilege that it is to study and practice medicine
So take a moment. Pause. Find what it is that makes you tick and then do it. And then, onto the next…