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Being A Doctor Is Holy Work

Discussion in 'Hospital' started by The Good Doctor, Oct 4, 2021.

  1. The Good Doctor

    The Good Doctor Golden Member

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    I was asked by the rabbi at my reform Jewish congregation to give a speech during the Rosh Hashana day service. This is a huge honor. My husband and I only joined this synagogue only two years ago after having left a more conservative congregation a couple of years before when we no longer felt any connection to it. I’m definitely not a leader in the synagogue, although I am in the choir (such that it is since we haven’t been able to do anything in the last 18months!) and am involved in a couple of committees.

    So it was kind of out of the blue that Rabbi Paul asked me to do this speech. And since I don’t tend to take myself very seriously, it was also really out of my comfort zone. But at my age now (55), I am more about pushing out of my comfort zone, so I figured, what the hell, why not? If he wants me to do it, then I’ll do it.

    It turns out he was right, and it was very well-received by the congregation, and several people told me it inspired them to consider their own work differently and to feel more passionately about their own work again. So I thought I’d share it here, in case it might inspire someone else out there.

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    So here’s the text of the speech:

    My name is Pam Dyne, and I am an emergency physician at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar. My hospital is one of LA County’s public hospitals and also one of UCLA’s main teaching hospitals.

    People tend to think that being an emergency physician must be super exciting all the time, and they always want to hear all the cool stories. And while I do have some pretty cool stories, generally based on people doing silly things and getting themselves into weird situations, that’s not what I love and value about being an emergency doc.

    Mostly, what I truly love and value is that I have the honor and privilege of being part of people’s lives when they need it most when they are scared and vulnerable. When they have nowhere else to go.

    I’ve shared this sense of honor and responsibility with countless medical students and others over the years who are curious about what it’s really like to be in the trenches and how I am able to handle it.

    But let me tell you that doing my job during the COVID pandemic has made me even more acutely aware of this. I am incredibly grateful that my chosen profession has allowed me to be valuable and helpful to my fellow people, especially during the pandemic over the last year and a half.

    I think about this in the sad and dark and really, really busy times, and when I’m anxious and worried about my own friends and family. This thought allows me to stay connected to my “why” — the reason I keep doing this — and to continue to find joy and meaning in being a doctor.

    You should know that many — too many — of my physician colleagues locally and around the country have become burned out and have even left the profession they spent a decade training to do because of all the sadness, distrust, and pessimism around them.

    Many doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel are angry, frustrated, and disappointed. Many feel frankly helpless and overwhelmed by the whole thing. With COVID, unfortunately, we have little to offer to make the harsh cases better, and especially more recently, circumstances could have been different.

    If you know me, you probably know that, in general, my character tends to be pretty cheerful and optimistic. But I have days where the frustration and sense of helplessness get to me too. Personally, I choose to think that what I am doing is important and has inherent value. This thought brings me a feeling of fulfillment and tremendous meaning and has gotten me through some objectively pretty terrible shifts.

    Throughout the pandemic, I also found strength in the text messages from the rabbis that came just when I needed them. I remember one call with Rabbi Paul, who asked me to consider my medical work as holy work. Then it all came into focus. Being a doctor, in the emergency department, during a pandemic was holy work, the work of “Tikkun olam,” repairing the world. There was holiness in the opportunity to use my abilities to be there for people in their time of need. That holiness, that sense of meaning, is accessible for all of us, during the hard times and the other times too. If only we will listen.

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