Being a Parent AND a Doctor
Medical school was a very tough academic experience over many years. It teaches one about diseases, symptoms, signs, presentations and treatments but it can be very difficult for it to teach the ‘patient experience’. After all, nobody chooses to be sick or to be involved in accidents.
After I completed medical school, I found myself striving to make the best medical decisions for my patients and to be kind but nothing prepares you or ‘trains’ you for that role. It has to evolve. I was always carrying a level of anxiety that my patients ‘believed’ in me as their doctor.
As my neurosurgical training was finishing, I was blessed with a fabulous mentor in paediatrics. He was one of those surgeons who inspired confidence but was also humble. He was a grandfather himself and I would often hear him telling the parents and loved ones of his patients that “If your child was my grandchild, I would…” I could see that this was a very powerful phrase.
Not merely as a glib saying, but rather for the confidence it inspired. That this doctor was treating ‘my’ child like one of his family.
I became a father for the first time a few years ago and never more have my mentor’s words resonated with me more. I find myself treating my little patients as if they were my child.
To use my training and skills in treating them under sometimes the direst of situations, yes, but also to look to their long term future…to handle them with the utmost care worthy of being their parents’ most precious ‘possession’.
Becoming a parent has made me a better surgeon to my patients. Not in a purely technical sense but in a sense of caring. I hope that this continues to bring a positive influence into the health and lives of the children I am privileged to treat.