I don’t like being jobless. I guess it’s one job in particular, though, that I am truly missing. I miss my residents. I miss healing. I miss feeling like I am making a difference simply by being a compassionate person. I thought that I would have all sorts of interesting stories stocked up after coming back from my trip. And I do, I suppose. But the truth is, the simplicity of one-on-one interaction and healing kindness is what I am missing. It would be silly to think that the minute I start nursing school, I will begin having these interactions again. I am aware that there will be a whole mess of textbooks and exams to contend with before I get anywhere near a patient. I can only imagine that the memories of my residents will fade further and further into the background, aging gracefully like an antique photograph. I can’t help wondering when this yearning will go away. I know that my upcoming patient interactions will never feel quite like my resident interactions. I am letting myself feel that, and feel sad about that. The uniqueness of providing one-on-one care for hours upon hours, day after day is not an experience that easy to replicate. I know that I want to be in primary care, providing services to the underserved, but I can’t help wondering whether I will find the same sense of fulfillment in a 10-minute encounter as I did with my residents. Having already experienced some of the difficulties associated with providing counseling and building a provider-patient bridge of trust in such a short time span, I wonder how I will fare with this new challenge. I get nervous about how I will do as a provider. Most superficially, I am concerned about blood and guts. I don’t like ’em. But I know I will get over that. You can only practice drawing blood so many times before you get used to it. Staring at abscesses must get easier with time, right? The human mind is miraculous in its ability to grow accustomed to anything. My deeper doubts lie in my ability to heal in a short time. Will I be able to connect with my patients? Will I feel as though I have made a difference? Will I feel overwhelmed by the suffering and my incomplete capacity to heal? This is where healing has many layers, I suppose. I didn’t really heal my residents. I helped them “live” to their full capacity. I couldn’t repair a blood clot or broken pelvis. But I could take the five extra minutes that it required to let a resident button her own sweater rather than hurriedly do it for her. I could respect another resident’s privacy by making sure to fully close the bathroom door, and knocking before reentering. And on the days that I forgot to do every single on of these small but important things, I didn’t berate myself. I looked for the things I did right. I sought to remember the interactions that would allow me to leave at the end of the day feeling like I helped someone. I can’t sweat the small stuff. Or even all of the big stuff. To try to solve all problems at once is not only impossible, but paralyzing. I don’t want to be paralyzed, I want to make a difference. One by one, and maybe someday a light will blink on, and I will know what has to be done to solve a bigger problem that plagues system of providing care. But for now it’s one person at a time and it all starts with me.
On my trip, I bought a small painting that has this Elie Wiesel quote on it:
“The start: But where was I to start? The world is so vast; I will start with the country I know best, my own. But my country is so very large. I had better start with my town. But my town too, is large. I had best start with my street. No; my home. No; my family. Never mind, I shall start with myself”
and in Spanish:
Pero, ¿por donde empezar? El mundo es tan vasto, que empezaré por el país que conozco mejor, el mío propio. Pero mi país es tan grande que será mejor que comience por mi ciudad. Aunque, en realidad, mi ciudad es también enorme. Será mejor que principie por mi calle. No, por mi hogar. No, por mi familia. No importa, comenzaré por mí mismo.
What a wise, wise man. Hopefully, he will sit on my shoulder in clinic during those moments when I start looking too big picture.