These past several weeks have been nothing short of a nonstop whirlwind for me.
It feels great to finally have enough free time to update you all on my life thus far. I literally had to plan ahead and carve this time out of my day in order to ensure that I was able to write this post; that’s how busy work has been ever since I wrote my last blog post a month ago. They weren’t playing when they said that Peds Heme/Onc is one of the most challenging rotations at my residency program. And lucky for me, I get to spend SIX WHOLE WEEKS on it. Six weeks is a mighty long time for any rotation, especially for a rotation as tough as this one. That being said, I’ve appreciated all of the growth and confidence that I’ve been afforded throughout these past five weeks, and although my tank is starting to run low on fuel, I’m determined to power through these last eight days with full force in order to get to my much-needed holiday break!
I started off the rotation feeling blindsided by the complexity and newness of the heme/onc service. I literally was fumbling through presentations due to the strangeness of how patients were presented during rounds. Plus I simply couldn’t comprehend why certain things were being done for patients and I also couldn’t pronounce about 25% of the medications that we were using for them. That being said, my co-resident and I powered through the rotation a day at a time and we eventually started to get the hang of how things operated on this service. We also built up enough of a knowledge base to suggest our own sensible assessments and plans for our patients, have been effectively utilizing the resources that we have around us (huge shoutout to the heme/onc nurse practitioners, nurses, and pharmacist, y’all are the real MVPs 🙏🏿), and even managed to take care of several acute situations where escalation of care was necessary for some of our patients. It’s quite amazing how I went from feeling inadequate in the first couple of weeks to feeling like I can now (somewhat) confidently manage a floor full of these patients both day and night.
Speaking of managing patients day and night, I’ve managed to complete a total of FIVE 24-hour shifts these past five weeks.
Why are 24-hour shifts a thing, you may ask? I have no idea. If I had to take a guess, I think it would all come down to a mix of scheduling efficacy (me doing a 24-hour call shift = allowing another resident a night off and vice-versa), continuity of care, and the fact that these shifts are something that has always been a thing in the past. But then again, I’m just the resident who goes where I’m told to go and work. All I know is that I did five of those monster shifts and they overall weren’t terrible. Pleasant? Absolutely not. But doable? Very much so, especially if you don’t have a ton of admissions to do at night and your floor patients aren’t decompensating. That being said, it was hard for me to get a lot of sleep on my call shifts due to the pages I would get throughout the night and the sporadic admissions that would sometimes come my way. I got several hours of sleep on my first call shift, but on each of my other ones I averaged about 1.5 hours of sleep a shift. To be honest, I was only able to push through thanks to my nighttime Starbucks runs. Thankfully though, I always had other people I could lean on if necessary and I never had to deal with frightening situations on my own.
Getting through the call shifts was also made a bit easier by playing mind games with myself. I simply thought of the 24 hours as four quarters of a ballgame, with each quarter equaling a total of six hours. Breaking up my day in that fashion made the shift go by a little faster and made it feel less of an endless marathon. If any of you are having to go through 24-hour shifts out there, I recommend trying that at least once and seeing how much it helps you mentally. It’s a trick I’m always going to use on each and every day-long shift I have to complete in residency from here on out. 😊
Throughout this rotation, I’ve been able to witness firsthand both the incredibility and the craziness of chemotherapy, the nonstop pain and suffering that sickle-cell disease brings to young people, the many intricacies of cancer, the joyful resilience that radiates from the patients we treat, and the unbridled hope that their families continue to exude throughout the extended hospital stays of their loved ones. While I’ve been able to reflect on what I wrote in my personal statement for residency throughout this past year-and-a-half, I’ve found myself reflecting on it more often during this rotation as I wondered at times why I made the decision to work in such an unsustainable manner with very little time in this rotation to pursue other activities that excites me. Of course it hasn’t helped that we are in the midst of an uncontrollable surge of COVID-related infections and deaths and that all of our lives have been significantly altered this year in so many ways. There have been times where I needed to tap back into the boundless and unrestrained passion I had back in medical school for improving the overall health outcomes of pediatric populations, and for helping children and adolescents find the hope and courage they need in order to stay resilient in the face of medical adversity. Through the constant beatdown of documentation and busy work, I’ve had to constantly remind myself that everything I do is actually working in the best interests of the children I serve, even though I don’t get to interact with them most of the day. In the moments that I do get to interact with them and their families on rounds, but especially in my own “free time” in the afternoon, I am quickly reminded of the incredible privilege that was bestowed on me when I graduated from medical school and am also reminded just how incredibly resilient my patients are, as well as the incredible amount of potential they possess for themselves, their loved ones, and the world. I sure am glad that I decided to pursue a career in pediatrics; now that I know what it’s like to work as a resident physician, I’m not sure how I would have managed to stay motivated in other fields of medicine. I would have probably found a way, but it wouldn’t have been easy.
Wow. Just like this post, 2020 is really coming to an end y’all. What a year, what a year. I’ll have PLENTY to say about it on my next post, which will be my yearly wrap-up one. Until then, I’m just going to keep trying to sustain the holiday spirit through my next wave of shifts and will be looking forward to what the New Year will bring us!
I hope that you all have a very happy and safe holiday season!
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Happy Holidays!!!
“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” – Christopher Reeve
– Black Man, M.D.