Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Talking about your generation.

Today at Grady

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again, 
 there is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9


Here is what they're saying about your generation:

They're saying that--since you don't work for thirty-six to forty-eight hours straight and since you get to actually take at least one day off in every seven and since during your emergency medicine rotation you don't get twenty-two twelve-hour shifts plus four separate continuity clinic days (that count as your "off days") and since you aren't falling asleep at stop signs and getting startled by security guards knocking hard on your frozen windows to wake you up in the parking lot post call in the dead of winter--they are saying that since you didn't experience all of those things you don't care the same. That, because your playing field is easier that your hearts don't ever get primed in that way that is necessary to become the kind of doctors we learned to be.


They are saying that all you and your generation want to do is hurry up and leave. That you are of a "shift-work" mentality and that you aren't as invested as we once were. That you haven't taken enough lumps to understand that being dog-tired is just part of the job and that over time, if you put in enough hours, some kind of anti-exhaustion muscle builds up for you that allows you to function well on fumes of sleep. 


Since the rules no longer allow anyone to tell you to "shut your piehole" and since you getting to have a say in just about everything is now the rule and not the exception, they're saying that you and your generation would prefer to spend your time complaining instead of hanging fluids or checking vital signs. That you and your smartphones and your social media live in such a different culture that none of you and your ways can ever align with us and ours. 

And that because of this you aren't as invested. That you are collectively selfish. And that you just don't and won't get it. 

That's what they are saying.

But today I saw this.

In the hazy afternoon sunshine, I saw a student doctor quietly wheeling his patient outside to get some fresh air. That's it. That's all. And I witnessed him smiling and talking and listening and connecting with his patient. Saying words like "Yes, ma'am" and "Beg pardon?" and making sure to go slow enough for it to feel like it was all about her and not about him. 


It made me think back to the day I clipped and filed my patient's finger nails and then painted them with dark red polish right at her bedside. A young woman with AIDS who was taking AZT but who was embarrassed by the way it discolored her nailbeds. And I remember going to Stop'n'Shop on Cedar Road to get a polish dark enough to cover up those tell-tale fingers.
image credit

I was an intern in 1996 when that happened. No one was there watching over my shoulder when I gave my patient that heartfelt manicure. Not a single soul. But I was. And she was, too. The look on her face when I leaned over that tray table and then fanned her finger tips dry with my hospital-issued antibiotic card said it all. 

I saw that patient's face when that student rolled her by in that wheelchair today. Her eyes were dancing and her smile was easy. And the moment I laid eyes on her I knew that expression because I'd seen it before. Because it was the same look that my patient gave me on a late night in Cleveland, Ohio when a simple gesture involving a three dollar bottle of Revlon nail polish provided her more relief than anything else we'd done for her that whole hospitalization.

Yeah, man.

My eyes are open and I see things like this every single day. Right here, right now. 

Here is what I know for sure. . . . .

Patients are still people. Connections are still connections. Empathy is still empathy. And, even with a new set of rules, caring is still caring.  

And so.

What has been will be again.

What has been done will be done again.
And there is nothing new under the sun. 


Now playing on my mental iPod. . .Listen to The Who and you'll see what I mean about there being nothing new under the sun. Don't worry--people were talking shit about their generation, too.


  1. You are AMAZING, you know this right! I read your blog, about a range of subjects and I often think, this chick is AMAZING. Today I thought I'd tell ya. Thank You.


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

Related Posts with Thumbnails