Sunday, February 4, 2007

Medical School

At some point there will have to come a time where my caring for patients will have to be substituted for a drive to learn how to care for patients.

Medical school has always been the goal. In the background, mostly, over the past year of paramedic training - but the ultimate goal nonetheless. My motivation to become a paramedic was derived out of a desire to care for patients, to obtain the opportunity to touch them with my own hands and listen to their complaints. The experience has been extremely visceral: a realistic up-front endeavor into the "realities" of medicine that I couldn’t possibly have imagined beforehand. Each day I ride in the back of ambulances, granted the chance to experience these people, bear witness to emotion and - once in a while - do something about it. Despite all of the work that this requires, the genuine strength and depth of knowledge that truly is necessary, this is fun for me.

I don’t mean to sell paramedicine short. How could I, I'm not even a medic yet. Still though, I am constantly nagged by a part of my brain that forces upon me the memory that, yes, this is supposed to be a building block. The bulk that is "Medical Training" still lies ahead of me, a great mass of the unknown that it only illuminated in part by my endeavors in EMS. There is so much more that I could learn. So much more to experience. Medical school provides the opportunity to take that next step: the realization of all that yet remains a mystery. There, I think to myself, they can teach me how to really take care of patients.

All the while, though, I remain fascinated by ambulance work. These patients, and the treatments which I am able to provide for them, make me happy. I ride on calls each day, observing or even myself making a difference in people's lives. We in the ambulance see patients at the moment of their weaknesses and are gifted with an opportunity to lend strength, medical treatment and a calm voice. The feeling is intoxicating.

Medical school is a grounded and sure-fire pathway to excellence. I could have the opportunity to know more, do more, and -- it is assumed -- get more from my patients. The chance requires dedication, though, and a willingness to lash myself to the mast of science and resist the siren call of this visceral EMS experience. I need to give up what I enjoy to obtain something that I think - only through secondhand experience - will give me more in return.

Ostensibly, medical school provides an opportunity for better. ...But I wonder, how much of what I love will I have to give up in hopes that what comes out on the other end will surpass it.

I'm still not sure what to do.


firefighter girl said...

A couple of thoughts:
there are jobs that we do because we are called to them (for whatever reason), and then there are jobs we do to pay for the things we are called to do. Some people find satisfaction with one, some find satisfaction with the other.
As a medic, you will have the opportunity to see your patients when everything unessential is stripped away from their lives and personalities. You will never have that opportunity as a doctor. Your work as an MD will most likely never have the immediacy or intensity that your work as a medic does. Of course, I'm somewhat biased. So let me say just one more thing, and this is truly the most important:

what does your heart tell you?

Anonymous said...

please think real careful about it. I know its tempting with the knowledge, with the respect, with the salary. but its not as great as it seems. I am a paramedic in medical school and I often regret it. I enjoyed EMS and paramedic school much more. all that perspective you are learning is absent here.

Chris B. NREMT-P said...

Here's one thing that you must keep in mind. As a medic you have seen the conditions in which patients actually live. Most physicians have no idea of the conditions from which their patients came. I've been a medic for almost 17 years. I believe that most dedicated paramedics could easily make it thru med school. Today, most physicians that I see went to med school intent on attaining the title and wealth alone. I see them daily. They are either ER physicians who "Treat and Street" with only half of an assessment, or FMD's who try to pass patients off onto another doc so that they don't have to admit them and make rounds. I sit in the ER at night and hear the conversations between ER doc and FMD and realize how those FMD's don't really care much about their own patients. You hear things like, "It looks like simple pneumonia and he needs to be admitted. OK, if that's what you want, I'll ship him." In other cases you go to a floor on a Friday for a transfer and the report from the RN is that the patient's doctor is leaving town and couldn't find anyone to cover so he is transferring the patient for more testing. There is no doubt in my mind that Medicare and Medicade are in a crunch. (Ranting, sorry)
Look, you have an great opportunity. You have seen, shall we say, the middle ground. Be the best MD out there and don't forget where you and your patients came from. One last note. To be the best. You must be on call as that MD 24/7 and 365 for your patients. That means when that ER doc calls at 0200 you answer the phone and do what is needed for your patient. You do that now, don't think it stops as a physician. It just means there isn't a 2 day break in between shifts. No more 24-48's or 24-72's. Remember where you've been and you'll be a great doc.

Anonymous said...

No offense to the other posters - but it sounds like you're just scared to take the next step. There are benefits of the paramedic world, but certainly there's some real comfort there too. Maybe it's time to move on.