Revelations.

This summer marked 12 years since I became a family physician.  I have had my family practice, whereby I am primary care physician for close to a thousand patients, for the past 10 years.  I have learned a tremendous amount this past decade but over the past couple of years I have come to realize that I cannot be everything to everyone.

Let me state that again.

I cannot be everything to everyone.

In the early days of practice, I used to believe that if I couldn’t help a patient that must mean I failed them in some way.  After one patient yelled at me because I wasn’t helping them enough, I nearly broke down.  I was just back from my first maternity leave and struggling with my own post-partum depression.  To be yelled at in my own office and basically told that I was a shitty doctor, well it was the first time I came to tears while seeing a patient.  I had to excuse myself and take a breath.  Thank goodness for my colleagues present in the office that day.  After I composed myself and debriefed with one of them, I walked back into the exam room.  I listened to his concerns and formulated a plan for him.  The appointment ended.

I learned a valuable lesson that day.  I can’t fix people’s lives and while I believe that many patients don’t really expect me to, there is often an unspoken expectation that because I am a physician, I somehow have the answer to all that ails them.

Let me be perfectly clear on this….  I do not.

I can’t fix your life.

I can provide you advice, counsel and recommend options to you – all this in about 15 minutes, sometimes half an hour.  I just can’t delve into your life and pick the up the pieces for you. I can’t do that for one patient, let alone close to a thousand patients.

Having said that, I still do sometimes want to be able to be present for and participate in all aspects of a patient’s care –  to be there when their baby is born; to be there when the breast cancer is surgically removed; to be there when the chemotherapy is administered; to hold their hand as they take their last breath.

I want to do it all.  I want to be that all-encompassing physician who does it all.

But I can’t.

I need to come to terms with that.

 

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