Doctor’s Day: 8 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Doctor!

There are times you will feel helpless but you can’t save every patient

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Health News
4 min read
Becoming a doctor isn’t just about glamour and prestige. Consider this post as a note of caution for all future doctors (Photo: iStock for representation purposes only)

(July 1 is observed as the National Doctor’s Day to honour the legendary physician and the second Chief Minister of West Bengal, Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy and a day for doctors all over the country to reflect on their love, ethics and commitment to medicine)

I save lives for a living. I’ve been doing that for the last 25 years.

Before starting medical school I knew that it won’t be easy. I’ll have to build on a whole new ‘medical’ vocabulary to the extent that my brain might explode. What I didn’t know was that the profession is nothing as glamorous as films make it out to be.

To all the young fellows dreaming about medical school, here are 8 things you should learn from a seasoned doctor before you decide to don the white coat for life:

1. You Will Never Be Super Rich

Thinking piles of dollars while studying at medical school? Ha ha! Dream on! (Photo courtesy: Tumblr/Kate Bones)
Thinking piles of dollars while studying at medical school? Ha ha! Dream on! (Photo courtesy: Tumblr/Kate Bones)

You will be well-off and at a better place than many people but don’t join the profession thinking you’ll become a gold digger. Less than 1% of doctors in the whole country strike it big enough to build their own hospitals, get into the mega league and talk big bucks, the rest of us are just comfortable in our lives.

2. You Will Still Ask Your Dad For Money At 30

This while your friends from IT and MBA will be travelling the world, buying their first cars, first homes, getting married and probably making babies.

Medicine is the toughest profession there is. It involves at least 10 years of hard work and very high tuition fees to become a specialist and then for a year or two of rural services if you work in India. You will be shocked as to how much patience and perseverance is required and how much your residency will take out of you.

There are benefits and drawbacks either way.

3. A 10-Hour Shift Can Mean More Than 24-Hours In the OT

Be prepared to give up your life because the commitment is more than you can imagine. (Photo courtesy: Tumblr/rockthisboat)
Be prepared to give up your life because the commitment is more than you can imagine. (Photo courtesy: Tumblr/rockthisboat)

Pressured and over-stretched have altogether new limits in our profession.

Especially if you are delivering babies. Babies don’t care about your schedule, the clock or your calendar. They pop when they pop. In fact that’s the case for any surgeon. An emergency comes at any time and someone’s life is always at stake. More than often, by the time you scrub off for the day, you probably haven’t slept for 24-hours straight.

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4. Once You Choose a Speciality, It’s For Life

If an engineer is unhappy in his work life he can go ahead and do an MBA. Start all over again with a fresh career within two years, at a better pay package. That doesn’t happen in medicine. Once you’ve decided your speciality, even within that you can’t move around without once again devoting years and money to go to medical school again.

The funny part is that you make up your mind about which speciality you want to pick up by the end of medical school - that’s when you’re 22 or 23-years-old and are stuck with it for the rest of your life.

4. Becoming a Doctor Is a Lot Of Paperwork

If you don’t want to opt for law for the fear of paperwork, stay away from medicine too. (Photo courtesy: i.imgur) 
If you don’t want to opt for law for the fear of paperwork, stay away from medicine too. (Photo courtesy: i.imgur) 

Sometimes the most important thing we do at hospitals is paperwork. You have to take it with a pinch of salt that documentation is as important as saving lives. From pre-authorisation forms, medical insurance, to noting down each and every instruction given to a patient, doctors are often buried in piles of charts.

6. You Will Mess Up But It’s Going To Be Fine

In medicine, your multitasking game has to be level A. Sometimes you are the only person in the shift and there are patient rounds, OPDs, surgeries, take life altering decisions in nanoseconds but you just can’t afford to mess up. Sadly, you will. Many times in your career you will question your decision to become a doctor, you might contemplate running away, switching careers or hiding in a hole, but it’s going to be okay. And you will live to learn from your mistakes and cut yourself some slack for it.

7. If Someone Else’s Life Is In Your Hands, You Have To Take Damn Good Care Of Yourself

You can’t be sloppy about your own health because it will reflect on your patients. There is never any time but you have to make the effort for exercising and maintaining a good diet around your appointments.

8. You Can’t Save All Your Patients

(Photo courtesy: <a href="http://imgur.com/gallery/NWN2H1L">IMGUR</a>)&nbsp;
(Photo courtesy: IMGUR

No matter how hard you try and how long it’s been, delivering bad news never gets easy. You can never be neutral when you tell a mother that she lost her only child, or that the most important person in someone’s life has passed away on your watch. No matter how often it happens, a patient’s death will leave you really sick.

(Dr Vijay D’Silva is among the best intensivists in India. He’s currently the medical director of Critical Care at the Asian Heart Institute in Mumbai. He’s a pro at managing all types of medical emergencies with excellent results)

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