Over this past weekend, I read an article in The Atlantic, entitled ‘Doctors Tell All…And It’s Bad‘, that I think is important for everyone to read. It’s about how doctors and doctoring has changed over the past few decades through the lens of the writer, who has had a long, trying experience with solving her health problems. The author of the article has done a good job to flush out the ways that doctors could change from their experiences. She also writes about the increasing demands of being a doctor in the age of improved medical care and improved patients’ rights.
It is true that a doctor’s personality will change from the time he or she starts medical school to when he or she finishes residency training and beyond. How could it not? It’s one thing to have an idealized perception of medicine vs. what being a doctor is really all about. Medical training is rigorous and hard in all aspects–physically, mentally and emotionally.
The article is not nuanced enough, however, to elucidate the process that doctors go through before we start our independent careers. The military-style hierarchy of medicine, the long hours of work and sleepless nights, high cost of medical school and low pay for the skill labor provided during residency add to the traumatic experience for many medical students and doctors in training. Also, there are a lot of jerks in positions of power, who are teaching doctors.
If there is any weakness in a person’s character, it will surface during residency training. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” But I must say, you subject anyone to a lot of daily stress, lack of sleep, financial limbo, and being blamed and shamed in public forum around other hospital staff for a few years and it will definitely test your character.
There are doctors who are extremely good with both clinical skills and human interaction. It’s just not as many as we would want. So, if you have a doctor, who is not only super competent but also gives you ample time and service, then let that doctor know that he or she is doing a fabulous job.