Monday, October 20, 2014

on restoration





Have you ever had too much space from your work? To the point where you feel rusty and it takes time to get back into a rhythm? 

Samir sent me this article, written by a psychiatrist, about the importance of story telling in medicine. It reminded me that story telling keeps me alert to everything about life: relationships, surroundings, struggles, changes, etc. When I have distance from that, I don't feel as present. Does that make sense? 

Being in New York has helped. So has carrying multiple notebooks, reading books from high school, and studying movies. I hope that with enough practice, the story telling will flow effortlessly again, and I can apply it to life inside and outside of the hospital. 



P.S. I came across this wonderful article about rekindling the spark with writing.


New York life

After four years, I'm reuniting with my old self in Manhattan. We picked up just where we left off. The girl who I was four years ago still lingers around the city, gazing at ads on the subway, recording the scent of roasted peanuts into a notebook, and striking up conversations with people in crowded restaurants. 

My rotation is at an amazing hospital that prides itself on caring for the under served. The commute--a drafty subway ride and 1 mile walk---takes me a couple of hours. Morning rounds are conducted with physicians, nurses, and social workers. The patients require around the clock monitoring.  I've spent a lot of time observing the value in reading a patient's chart again and again, speaking to their family members on a daily basis, and trusting a nurse's intuition. There are narrative medicine conferences every week, where health care professionals discuss patient care through story telling. 

Every once in a while, when I'm on my way home, I look up. The city resembles a giant game of Tetris, all corners and winks of light. Samir and I have a tiny corner of Manhattan, where the view makes us feel charmingly insignificant.



Our windowsill has our record guestbook from the engagement party and many books. 

 




“And lastly from that period I remember riding in a taxi one afternoon between very tall buildings under a mauve and rosy sky; I began to bawl because I had everything I wanted and knew I would never be so happy again.” 
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Sunday, September 21, 2014

lessons from the hospital

This past month, I've been on my ICU rotation.  My favorite physician at our school is the preceptor and every week, I've learned some things that apply both in and out of the hospital.

1. Take the time to dive into backstory. Although there are universal elements to health and biology and medications, each individual's experience is different. If someone has a long term addiction or lives alone without a car, it won't matter if they're prescribed the right medications. 

2. Appreciate protocols but don't let them make you complacent. There are a lot of formulas for success, for minimizing errors. One thing we learned was that while it helps to have a structured plan for anything, following something without thinking about it can make someone too comfortable. 

3.  There's always more than what meets the eye. We see patients, in their rooms, dealing with some unfortunate circumstances. But like everyone else, they have stories that transcend their hospital stay. Sometimes I forget about that idea when I leave the hospital. I had a rough day today and went to the grocery store after work. The cashier's kindness almost took my breath away. She didn't realize the impact she had by taking a few extra seconds to make conversation and wish me the best.

4. It always helps to put yourself in someone else's shoes. I may discuss and write out the next best tests for each patient, but does that mean I really know what they entail? What if someone is scared about sitting in the MRI machine? Or uncomfortable with the idea of a lung biopsy? I may have checked on someone the day after an abdominal surgery, but does that mean I truly understand what type of pain they're in?

While the scientific knowledge from the past several years has stretched my mind, the art of medicine has taught me a lot about my limitations and hopes.

Has your work taught you lessons that helped you in other facets of your life? 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

starting on a creative path



“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” 


-Ira Glass

Friday, August 1, 2014

on exhaustion and creativity

There's an inverse relationship between exhaustion and creativity.

This past school year has been a mixture of extremes. I've reached pinnacles of both fulfillment and burnout that I didn't think existed. For a few months, I worked six to seven days a week and then came home every night to study. During three different commutes home, I was so afraid of falling asleep on the road that I called my parents to keep me company on the phone.

On one of my weekends off, I slept for 24 hours straight. There were weeks when my lunches consisted of a bag of chips and bottle of soda. I felt disgusting--inauthentic---but I kept pushing. A classmate and I shared a delirious laugh when we both realized that we wanted to cry because we were so tired. Sometimes I would think about the difficult patient cases, the ones who were dealt with an unfortunate hand in life, and be unable to focus on anything else. 

During any free time, I pushed myself to write. That's what they say to do, isn't it? Not wait for the mood or the opportune moments but create those things for ourselves. 

Well, I've found that in order to flourish creatively, we need to rest first. That may not always come in the form of sleeping but logging at least 7 hours always helps. So does taking time to socialize and experiencing a world  and interactions outside of work. Even with all of the exciting things coming up, the past year caused my creativity to atrophy and it often took time just to get back on track. I have to learn to be okay with that, with the impulsive nature of medical student life. 

There were great things in the midst: kind patients, excellent physician teachers, friends' weddings and bachelorettes, planning for our own wedding, getting a chance, through The Clinton Foundation, to start an idea I've had for a long time. But even for those occasions, I was exhausted. And I realized, at some point, that I never want to be too drained to relish in the present.

When your days have a film over them, a weight that rests on the shoulders and back, you are taking a route towards a small, corrosive life. 

I'm still figuring it out and will probably have setbacks with the way this year looks. But there are some things I can do:

-Prioritize sleep
-Cultivate the art of relaxation
-Add novelty into the daily banality
-Allow people to help
-Learn to set limits and say no

How do you handle burnout?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

what if



"Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen."

-Anne Lamott, via Brain Pickings