The humbling act of parenting: my built-in ego manager

image.jpegI’m now several months in to residency and finally feel like I’m getting the hang of things. For starters, the computer system no long eludes me most days! Dr. Beeson is growing on me. I’m adjusting to my new identity slowly but steadily. The casual glance down at my badge & a subtle straightening of the spine instills a certain confidence.

I feel like I knew what I was “buying” when I started residency. 2 of my close friends in other residencies have asked me if I regret this line of work because they do. I really don’t. For the most part I am enjoying residency, despite the long hours and tough social situations I see daily.

I was on pediatric surgery in September. It was a good rotation because it showed me as a general pediatrician when to refer to surgery urgently and when something could wait. Having my history with anesthesiology, I was thrilled to be in the operating room again. I missed it, but every day was reminded in subtle ways that I made the right decision for me, choosing peds over anesthesia. I liked seeing the pediatric surgeries, but I didn’t get to do much hands on learning, which is what I prefer. They had enough people in the OR without me being there, so I often felt I was in the way. I joked with my family that I didn’t think I had narcolepsy until I started this rotation, because standing in a warm operating room and not doing much with your hands can make for some sleepy mornings! I tried to read every night on the most common pediatric surgery cases and tried to be interested in the lab values and testing our patients had. Mostly I just kept my head down and enjoyed the good hours and the extra time I got to spend with Adelaide when I had the occasional half day.

October was my clinic month. Our resident-run clinic sees a very underserved patient population. Truly the “least of these.” I know I said I wanted to serve the underserved in my interviews and even back in my Med school application, but in real life it’s tough. The question I’ve most struggled with is how do I go home and leave my baggage at the door? There’s no way anyone from my day-to-day life can handle the burden of knowing these patients’ stories, and patient privacy laws make it so that I often can’t share much detail of any patient story. It makes it very difficult to deal with, keeping them to myself and never being able to talk through them with my support system. So I make light of them. I joke about it. Because how else can I cope?

Another thing I noticed on my clinic month: my experience being a mom myself is making me a way better pediatrician. I’m not sure why I thought I had to keep my private life out of my clinical practice. For the first few months of residency, I hardly ever mentioned Adelaide to my patients because I didn’t want to make it “about me.” But I have found since I’ve started sharing my own parenting experiences I have connected with so many more patients. It’s really awesome to connect with families over shared parenting experiences, especially with families who come from totally different backgrounds than I do. One example is that I showed up to clinic two weeks ago with spit up all down the back of my shirt. I had no idea until my Attending mentioned it. I was mortified, but laughed it off & told my next patient about it & was able to connect over how our kids humble us when we think we have it all together! Plus there’s just something humbling about going home and wiping another person’s butt- if it was ever a question, these things definitely keep my ego in check. I have patients that now request to see me because of the connections we’ve made over shared parenting joys & downfalls. It’s a truly wonderful feeling! I have more to write about my November month of inpatient hospital pediatrics, but for now, this will have to do!

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