Novel Idea

I have been jumping from hiatus to hiatus. Due to a recent upheaval, I had cause to reexamine the way I do, generally. My sudden reinvestigation of ethics lead me to carry the Oxford Hume, A Very Short Introduction (which is, funnily enough, written by A.J. Ayer. This is only funny if you spend too much time reading things such as Hume, A Very Short Introduction) in my white coat on call. It was a comfort in the brief moments of quiet I was granted in one of the typically insane nights of Internal Medicine in Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra hospital. The Royal Alex, or simply the Alex, as we affectionately call her, is Edmonton’s downtown hospital, and one of the two acute care centres. The Internal medicine service, indeed all of the services, are always busy.

Busy in medical student lingo means “I spent all night talking to sick people, many of whom were unable to or didn’t want to talk to me, examining sick people, and completing paperwork.” In between, I was reading about Hume. It’s not like I was going to get any sleep before my pager went off, anyway.

I soon found that this was not quite enough to sate my appetite, and as I moved beyond internal medicine, I decided that I needed to change my overall strategy, and start catching up on all the novels my husband and my good friend Michal Wojcik have read. I’ve gone through about five in the past two weeks, most of which I’m sure I will talk about over on the Blog of the New Sun.

Now, I have always been a reader. However, I haven’t read in this volume for a good eight years. Because in the fall of 2006, I started my post-secondary education, and I’ve simply been too busy to read since then. I think I averaged about three good novels a year.

Realizing this has been distressing, because the truth about becoming a physician is that it’s unlikely that my schedule will substantially improve from the way it is now. What I know of physicians, be they junior residents or crusty attendings, is that “busy” is the norm. I do not know a doctor who does not have a life at least mostly filled with clinic, call, (OR), research, meetings, and the ubiquitous mountains of paperwork that threaten to bury we mere humans. And I’m not sure why.

I feel that for the majority of medical people, the having a filled life is a habit. As children, quite a lot of us were involved in extracurriculars, then as we grew older we began to turn these time-fillers into resume-fillers, and once achieving admission to medical school we sort of just kept doing other acts on top of our educational duties, until we had little time for much else. You only have to say “yes” to three events to fill up quite a lot of your time. As far as I can tell, this trend continues into residency and beyond, with lots of little initiatives needing our support and invitations to join in a research study stack on more and more time until we breath, eat, and bathe in medicine.

This is perhaps a hyperbole.

Even so, I feel myself at risk of becoming an incomplete human. And I don’t want my husband to lose me to one of my passions.

So, for this next rotation (pediatrics), I am taking a hiatus from the go-go-go mentality, and seeing if I can’t just enjoy the time I have when I’m not working. Consider this my own research study, titled “Medical Students: allowing for chilled moments in between study periods,” with measured outcomes of academic performance compared to a control group of students who continue as they were.

I’m feeling fairly optimistic about these next few weeks. In fact, I feel better already.


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