NaBloPoMo 2016, Letters to Patients, Day 3
To My Patients With Diverse Occupations:
What a pleasure and an education to know you!
I think none of you are plumbers, though. But I remember the first time I met a plumber—it was in college, a friend of a friend. To this day I wonder if he thought I was a little crazy—I grilled him mercilessly about his work. Was it like “Moonstruck,” is copper really always better? What’s the grossest thing you’ve ever seen? What do you need to know, is there plumbing school? How do you know when you can’t do a job? What equipment do you carry around?
I have only ever known medicine, you see. I resisted at first—so typical, the Chinese kid who wants to be a doctor. But then I volunteered to be a health aide in college—I got to move into the dorm a week early that way. And it was inevitable, I was hooked! So I went ‘straight through,’ as they say—biology/pre-med, no gap years, no real life working experience before medical school.
Traders, dog trainers, book editors, retail managers, accountants, nurses, call center agents, firefighters, small business owners, truck drivers, professors, musicians, actuaries—you all have such interesting lives! One of my favorite parts of the history is when I get to hear what you do for a living, because it’s so different from my own. So please be patient when I interrogate you about your work, I’m just so curious! How do you spend your days? What makes a great day for you? What makes it hard? What are the greatest sources of stress and meaning in your work/career/vocation? What do you love about it? Would you choose it again?
This curiosity stems from my deep desire to relate. In your work, people probably present you with problems. You apply specific expertise to diagnose the underlying condition. You determine the most appropriate or attainable solution, and map out a path to achieve it. You take some responsibility for the result, while recognizing that your coworkers must also participate fully for the team to succeed. On your best days, the collaborative effort yields not only the desired outcome, but also a deepened connection between people. It’s not so different for me.
It’s easy to perceive a distance between you and me, between patients and physicians. Medicine can seem elitist sometimes, what with the onerous entrance exams, the stiff competition for school admission, and the prolonged and grueling training. But in the end I bet we share more experiences than we realize. I’m just here to use my little heap of knowledge and skills to help others, and I know that’s what you do, too.