Barely Legally

Confessions of a Moot Court Bailiff

An ER Doctor on Being Human

Representing clients and losing their cases is hard enough. But no matter how badly a lawyer argues a case, the client’s still alive at the end of the day. (Unless you’re litigating over a will, but then the client wasn’t alive at the beginning of the day, now was he?)

Then there’s being a doctor. The stresses there are somewhat unique, to say the least.

A normal day at my job is hard: I’m running nonstop for 8-12 hours, I’m constantly interrupted, I have patients making demands of my attention and empathy, I’m saturated with information and need to make rapid decisions without adequate information, and I know that if I make an error or miss some important piece of information, the human, professional and financial consequences can be disastrous. It’s a pressure cooker.

And that’s a day where things go well. A bad day can be very bad indeed. Sometimes it’s just the emotional strain of dealing with particularly difficult patients. Maybe you go through a run of giving out terrible diagnoses. Maybe you deal with the death of a child. Or a patient who pulls at your heartstrings in some unique and personal way. Maybe someone dies on you unexpectedly. Worse, maybe someone dies on you and you’re not sure if it was your fault or not. Perhaps you know you made an error, and that you’re going to have to face accountability for it.

These are the days that drive physicians over the edge. I’ve had them, and I remember them so vividly even years later. There was the one lady with a gallbladder attack on Thanksgiving, many years ago. She had classic signs and I saw gallstones on my bedside ultrasound. She crashed and died right in front of me from a ruptured thoraco-abdominal aortic aneurysm. Her abdominal aorta had looked normal on my scan; the aneurysm was in the chest and ruptured into the thorax, which is very unusual. That didn’t make it any easier to go home and sleep that night.

Read the whole post on how Doctor “Movin’ Meat” deals with losing. Hint: based on the name of his blog, you can assume he employs gallows humor to cut the tension.