Sunday, August 06, 2006

"The smell of hospitals {in August}

and the feeling that it's all a lot of oysters, but no pearls..." The Counting Crows did capture a sentiment in this lyric that I find myself hearkening to whenever I first enter the hospital from the fresh air and find the scent the same, no matter where the hospital may be. It's the unfailingly familiar antiseptic smell, a combination of clorox, lysol, alcohol foam, and hibiclens, mixed with the heavier, musky odor of illness, bodily fluids, and, at times, necrosis. It's true that cancer has a scent, and I caught an inkling of that smell as I passed one patient's room on my way to round this morning. It's a scary and sad smell, cancer, and I found myself holding my breath and hurrying forward.

Most of the time, working in the hospital doesn't bother me; it's just where I work. Granted, I spend the majority of my time on the L&D floor. This floor is full of young, healthy, and happy patients. Luckily, one doesn't encounter much death and decay on this floor. Since I've been rounding on my TOA woman on the Med/Surg floor, though, I'm reminded once again how the majority of the hospital is full of the sick and the dying, not just the brand new and living. It forces one to stare their own mortality in the face. It makes me uncomfortable and melancholy. Denial, denial, denial. We all are great at this. For example, I had to walk past the smoking area on my way into the hospital today; patients garbed in gowns, some in wheelchairs and towing IV poles lined up and happily puffing away. Slaves to their addiction. Killing themselves with a smile. At least smoking will get your post-op patients up and about to ambulate. Gotta love the drive to smoke for that.

I'm sending my TOA lady home today. She is speaking optimistically of adoption and alternate parental avenues. I'm hoping that the depression doesn't hit her like a ton of bricks when she gets back home. She's coming to see me on Tuesday and Friday. Gotta let them go sometime. Many times as an OB/GYN, I find myself acting as counselor as well as physician. I've spent well over 30 minutes at each visit with this patient and her family, explaining, encouraging, and uplifting. I know that they appreciate this, and I love to do this for them, but it does drain me. I chose OB my 3rd year of medical school because I loved to read about it, loved to do some hands-on procedures, and most of all, because I loved talking to the patients. You have to love to do this job. At times it takes all that you are. I am lucky because I do love it, and I am unlucky because becoming the counselor in my profession has carried over into my "real-life" relationships. I am the confidant and problem-solver for my good friends, and, because of this "super competent" role that I have assumed, I am too reticent to vent my own problems to anyone. Not that I have huge problems, mind you. My life is relatively charmed. I'm finding that this blog is a wonderful, anonymous outlet, and I am thankful for that.

P.S. Don't you think it is weird that the word "blog" isn't on the spell check? Funny.

3 comments:

Moof said...

"I am the confidant and problem-solver for my good friends, and, because of this "super competent" role that I have assumed, I am too reticent to vent my own problems to anyone."

Listen, the blog will only help with that to a certain extent. You need someone who can listen interactively. You can only do this vicarious stuff for so long, and then it catches up with you ...

... you become the person who listens to the to person you went to for help.

Someone with the pressures of your profession especially needs human support.

Be proactive in taking steps to remedy that for yourself ... really. After a while you can no longer give what you don't have, because you're drained. Your practice will suffer, your relationships will suffer ... you will suffer.

"Who will listen to the listener?"

Guinness_Girl said...

So...how did it go - the bit about telling them your patient likely got the tricho-thingy (I am so medical) from her husband, which means her husband likely isn't monogamous?

dr. whoo? said...

moof - Thank you. You are right about needing an interactive listener, and I do have that in my husband. Writing the blog is a good way to spill the roundy thoughts out of my head and into print. I really am sleeping more soundly since I started (well, as soundly as an ob/gyn *can* sleep, anyway!)

GG - Well, I didn't spell it entirely out for them. I just told them that it was a parasite that was transmitted only by sexual contact, and that both parters needed to be treated. I'll let them work out the details of how it got there on their own. They really took it in stride. I was surprised.