If you ask any one of my family members or close friends why I want to be a doctor, most of them will tell you it’s because I want to be a Pediatrician. It’s just something I’ve known and been comfortable with since my childhood. When I was little I even told my Aunt, who is a nurse, that I wanted to be the doctor who gets to hold all of the babies. Funny enough, the only specialty I am interested in now is Neonatology! My confirmation of my interest in Peds was discovered when my niece was diagnosed and treated for ALL- the most common type of leukemia in children. This is all really unlike most of my classmates- most of them are experiencing rotations through the lens of “what kind of doctor do I want to be when I grow up.” In some ways I am jealous of them, getting to discover their passions and find what they’re good at, while I’m pretty certain of what I was made to do. But in other ways, it’s a huge sigh of relief. The pressure of choosing a field in which I will excel and be happy isn’t there- I know I love peds… and now that I’ve worked in a pediatric hospital for a month, I know I’m good at it. Talk about a sigh of relief! I was honestly worried that I wouldn’t enjoy the hospital aspect of it. Or that I would love it but not be very good at it.
Picking a field of medicine invites tons of opinions from everyone. Everyone wants to tell you why you should and shouldn’t pick a certain field. For example, everyone who isn’t a pediatrician has *plenty* to say about how horrible this field is- “the parents are terrible,” they say. “I just couldn’t work with sick kids all day. How awful would that be!,” they say. “I mean I guess if treating ear aches and doing well-child checks is FUN for you…ugh!,” they state. Well, while I can respect all of those arguments, I expect the same respect when I say I absolutely love it. Every bit of it. The healthy babies and the sick ones who need a little extra help. The well-child checks and the earaches and the terminal illnesses, and yes, even the occasional difficult parent (come on, would you honestly be cool as a cucumber if your pride and joy and most prized possession was sick and it was out of your control to fix them?! No. You would be freaked out too. As would I). And I love people who are passionate about psych, or treating adults, or looking at rashes all day… and none of those things are my cup of tea. It’s really amazing how we all have gifts that can best serve humanity through these different fields. I am so grateful we don’t all love peds- because then no one would treat us as adults!
So, off of that soapbox and onto my personal experiences at Phoenix Children’s. My first day was a whirlwind adventure. I was on “blue team,” which treated kids with heart and lung disease. Some were terminal. Some were temporary. Some were 3 days old. Some were weeks away from their 18th birthdays. I nervously prepared my first patient presentation, and after shakily presenting to my Attending, was asked, “you’ve done this before, haven’t you?” I could not have been beaming more proudly! I was so excited to be succeeding at something I’ve had my heart set on for years. My first week was highlighted by challenges I hadn’t anticipated- I had helped operate on adults, I had formed eloquent differentials on all of my patients at the VA- and yet, these youngsters were throwing me for a loop! That’s when my Attending printed off a list of age-appropriate vitals and gave my senior resident, intern, the other med student and myself a lecture on how kids aren’t just small adults. It was something I knew all along, that our peds professor had taught us, and something that is common sense- but in practice, it is SO easy to slip into the assumption that common things are common and typical “run of the mill” treatments will work on everyone. I was expecting some differences but was humbled to find out everything is 100% different. Dosages. Fluid maintenance. Signs and symptoms of disease. Fever. The list goes on and on.
Some things I didn’t anticipate encountering during my first week were explaining medical things to parents in layman’s terms- and being prepared to hold them while they cry, stand there while they question your teams decisions, and most of all listen to their true concerns. I wasn’t prepared for the vast pathology that just simply should not happen to innocent souls who haven’t yet had a chance to experience life outside of beeping machines that are actually responsible for giving them that life. I definitely wasn’t prepared to discuss DNR orders with a mom who had exhausted every avenue of medical care possible for her 43 day old baby girl who wasn’t going to make it through the week. I struggled with interpreters and language barriers as well as cultural norms that differed from my own. I wrestled with my own judgement trying to figure out the best way to discuss with parents the chromosomal abnormality their new baby had because of their consanguinity. I watched in awe as a 5 month old boy’s parents got to “nest” and prepare to bring him home for the first time since his birth due to his complex medical issues, including a breathing machine and feeding tube – talk about an emotional personal moment to have the privilege of sharing with them.
I can’t summarize in one blog post the emotional depth to which I was stretched this month or the immense reward I felt at the end of each day knowing that in some small way I had helped- maybe it was a good medical idea, maybe it was suggesting the correct test to order, or maybe it was simply holding a scared mom’s hand. All I know is that I felt fulfilled each day in a way I can only hope others find in their careers. Sure, it was frustrating at times. My rotation definitely had its fair share of both tears and laughter. But at the end of the day, I can safely say I have found God’s calling for my life. I was meant to care for children and I can’t wait until I get to do it every day!