Status/post breakdown #1

by Christina on October 24, 2011

I’ve not been very happy at the hospital in the past couple of weeks and am trying to figure out why (culminated in a mini-breakdown last week and helps explain the lack of blog posts – sorry!).

I think it’s a combination of a few things:

  • Busy-ness: Our inpatient service has been slammed and I feel like a robot running around checking off my to-do boxes all day.
  • Lack of time with patients: Rushing all day working through my to-do’s, following up labs, writing orders, answering pages…  can’t find time to talk with my patients and answer their questions (not good for either of us).
  • Sick, sick people: It’s usually too late to reverse the debilitating disease process that has taken over, which is often a result of drugs, alcohol, cigarettes (and sugar) that people have put into their bodies. There’s only so much medicine can do…and that can feel hopeless.
  • Difficult conversations with patients about dying and what they want in their last few days.
  • Suffocation in paperwork: admission paperwork, writing orders (and re-writing them), discharge paperwork, dictations. It’s overwhelming and distracting.
  • Lack of autonomy: No control over my day… I feel like a slave to my pager and to-do list.
  • Feeling unhealthy myself: Sleep-deprived, bad food in my body, dehydrated… drainage of my physical/emotional vigor and energy.
  • Social isolation: I miss having my people in my life!

Anyway, I had the day off today and it’s helped me cultivate some much-needed gratitude for the beautiful things around me and getting me through:

  • the chapel in the hospital… a sacred and quiet space where I can escape for two minutes and feel like a person again
  • the honor of being invited into people’s most private and terrifying moments, and the opportunity to learn how to be a calm, loving, and positive presence at the end of someone’s life
  • a job where I am humbled, grounded, and challenged every day
  • a yoga practice that teaches me how to breathe and start over all again
  • epsom salt baths (this has turned into a nightly ritual… off to take one now)

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jimmy October 24, 2011 at 7:45 am

Good assessment on articulating what’s been bothering you. I should try this too. Reminders/acceptance that some things are out of my control helps me focus on what I’m able to address. Maybe you can try to find a restorative yoga class on a day off – not for everyone, but it really helps find that reset button for me.

This entry makes me really appreciate my doc a bit more on the few occasions I do go in!

Hope you feel better!

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Christina October 24, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Hey Jimmy, thanks!! Yeah I really do need a good restorative yoga class, that’s a great idea (do they have those at the climbing gym?)

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Jimmy October 25, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Yep, there’s one on Wednesdays at 7:30pm. There’s also yin which is similar on Sundays at 4pm and Fridays at 6:45pm. Here’s the full schedule: http://www.pgyoga.com/sanfrancisco/sf_schedule.html

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KM October 25, 2011 at 1:34 am

hey, I just went through this myself about 10 days ago. I was nearing the end of a 3 -month wards stretch and I just came home and had a good cry for no reason, ate some brownies and went to bed 😉 I think you have a pretty good list of everything that sucks about being an intern–especially the social isolation. I expected many things of intern year, but I didn’t expect to feel so alone at times. Know that you aren’t! We’re out here reading and caring!
You also name many of the things that are so wonderful about being a doctor. I just switched to outpatient (phew!) and life is sooo much better so I guess I just want to say hang in there. You will be able to pick right back up at being yourself, and someday we’ll move up the food chain and be able to maintain that balance of work and play for longer periods of time.

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Christina October 25, 2011 at 2:17 am

Katie! So good to hear from you on here… and glad to hear you’re on outpatient and feeling better about things (I cannot wait for my outpatient month). Totally hear you on nights crying, eating brownies, and going to bed… sometimes that’s all we can do 🙂 Off to bed and a bath now, but wanted to say hi and thank you for writing (such a nice treat to come home to!)

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Kim Palmer October 26, 2011 at 12:25 am

This makes me feel empathetic to my rushed doctors, too, when usually I am just annoyed 🙂 sorry you are going through it but also so interesting. Don’t usually get the doctors’ perspective!

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Laura October 27, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Wow, Tina, so impressed with your perseverance–hang in there!! xoxox

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