One of my oldest and closest (despite the miles I hope) keeps a blog under the name doctor/woman. She is currently training to be a GP, after completing medical school and her junior doctor years. She doesn't always get to post that often, but when she does I love to hear her thoughts on her life and work... of course this is because I love and care about her... but it is also because in many ways we are very different people - not just because of our different careers - but because of our different personalities, quirks and foibles etc. We also have a lot in common, hence being good friends.
Her latest post started me writing a comment back to her, but then I realised that maybe it would require a longer reflection than would fit in that little comment box - so this post is for her (and me). I suggest if you're not familiar with doctor/woman, but are familiar with me, then you read her post first before you read this one.... otherwise this is not going to make much sense.
I believe that one of the greatest blessings of my time as an undergraduate was meeting the three wonderful women who became my friends, and were all training to be doctors. Now two are on their way to being GPs, and a third is working in gynaecology/obstetrics. I met them when they were 18. Having recently looked at some of the photographs I took of us in our first year (not many as it was before the days of digital) it makes me remember just how young we were. I feel so privileged to have been there to watch these girls become women, and to watch these students become doctors.
They are all remarkably bright, dedicated and hardworking and I admire them for so much for their tenacity and dedication to the path they chose when they were so young. But one of the things being their friend has taught me, above all else, is a lesson that I'm not sure I would have learnt had I not known them - and for that I am eternally grateful. Doctors are not superwomen/supermen. They are people, just like you and me, above all else. Medicine is the profession that holds the greatest mystique in our society. If I hadn't known these women as they grew up, and grew into their roles, then I'm not sure I would have grown to understood what it means to be a doctor.
They do know so much, and years of practice as well as education means that they do a good job and they are experts in their field. But they only have one brain, one body. Particularly those in general practice, have, by definition to be generalists not specialists. I don't go to my GP expecting her to have all the answers, but to work with me to find solutions or find someone else who might have an answer.
I so often overhear or am involved (but not contributing) to a conversation where people are dissatisfied with the medical profession. Yes, everyone, including me gets hacked off that the NHS doesn't have more money, that it has problems with organisational culture and modernisation, that we don't get enough time with our doctors when we do see them.... I have also encountered doctors who where basically arseholes, and just because they're doctors doesn't mean that that description can't apply - in fact because of their intelligence and background profile maybe there is a slightly higher proportion of arseholes in the medical profession than in the general public.... But what saddens me most is when people are criticising their doctor for not being able to solve a problem, or not knowing all the answers... I wish they'd give them a break... understand that medicine is just as much art as science.
So I have great sympathy with doctor/woman for feeling the pressure that that mystique puts on medical professionals almost unlike any other profession. I'm not sure there is much we can do about it as few people are blessed enough to have the experience I have had. But I hope she finds enough time in her "civilian" life to feel like a woman, and has enough rewarding moments from her medical life to feel like a healer.