“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, ” plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
As I stepped out of the elevators and entered the double doors, I heard the familiar sounds of crying, objects clashing, and running feet. I looked around and saw the bright and colorful surroundings that felt like a reprieve from the rest of world. It was then that I knew I was “home.”
This “home” I refer to is the Pediatrics ward. I have found my calling. My interest in Pediatrics goes as far back as middle school. I always knew this is what I wanted. Furthermore, to confirm my desires, I interned in Florida Hospital’s Pediatrics and NICU ward for a semester during my senior year of high school. I never stopped smiling!
However, when I started my eventual career in medicine and started learning about all the “cool” and interesting cases medicine has to offer, I started rethinking my path. Maybe I should be an Internist, so that I would witness and diagnose these “cool” cases that mostly affect adults. Suddenly, Pediatrics seemed a bit boring. Aren’t most children relatively healthy? Would I be bored with checkups, immunizations, school physicals, and the other mundane tasks of a pediatrician? What about the paranoid, know-it-all, helicopter parents? I would have to deal with them as well. And babies?? They can’t tell you what’s wrong with them. Will their incessant crying and irritability reduce me to a pile of frustration, as their parents look to me to tell them what’s wrong with their child? And let’s not forget the dark side of Pediatrics, which includes child abuse, depression, and other mental illnesses. How will I keep my composure when I witness these unfairly treated adolescents and the consequences it brings?
I rotated in Internal Medicine from January to April. I was sure that I would probably seek a residency in IM, due to the vast number of sub-specialties I could go into afterwards. However, I couldn’t shake the boredom I felt most days of the week. Surely it is interesting, however, it wasn’t for me. My surgical rotation was quite interesting, and I will always be fascinated when one opens the body while the patient is asleep, repairs something inside, closes it up and the patient is better. However, my interest in surgery is from afar. But as soon as I started Pediatrics, the familiar smile that never left my lips in high school during my internship returned, even on my first day of rotations. It was evident: I love kids! And I can’t imagine a career without them.
As it turned out, Pediatrics ISN’T boring after all. Children are so dynamic as they grow older, that many things change, including differential diagnoses and drug dosage, even with children only months apart. Also, most attractive to me in Peds, is the fast turnover of the kids, with new kids on the ward everyday, unlike the adult ward, where a patient can be in there for months. Kids tend to get better faster, which increases a sense of accomplishment (important factor for me) and decreases boredom (also important)!
I found myself staying on the ward for longer hours, coming back to interview patients in the evenings (long after I settled in at home and had dinner) and just hanging out with the kids and their parents. I realized that I could never do so willingly in Internal Medicine or Surgery. Sure, I did a few overnight and weekend calls in Internal Medicine, but I was always aware of the hours passing by.
The most proud moment for me in Pediatrics, was when I spent some time with a mother and her 11 year old son who has Type 1 Diabetes that was poorly controlled. It was common knowledge among the doctors and nurses, that due to a slight language and culture barrier, the mother seemed to not understand the importance of supporting her son in his tight blood glucose control to prevent the sequelae of a chronically high blood glucose, and would undermine the efforts of the doctors by feeding her son way too much sending his blood glucose spiraling upwards. I spent the morning educating, in laymen terms, about diabetes to the mother. The light seemed to emerge in her eyes, as she finally seemed to understand the pathophysiology of what was happening to her son. She became tearful and was very grateful.
I presented the 11-year old patient to Grand Rounds, and later, during morning rounds, the patient’s mother kept saying to her doctor: “Natacha told me…” I was a bit embarrassed that she kept mentioning my name, afraid that I may have said the wrong thing. I held my breath after each declaration.
The doctor followed with: “Natacha? The medical student, Natacha? You know she’s only a medical student. There is a difference.”
To which the mother replied, “I know, but I figured she studied about diabetes and knows something about it.”
Fortunately for both the both of us, the information I gave was correct, and the doctor subsequently praised my efforts. It was at that moment that I, paradoxically, felt like a real physician.
“I can do this,” I thought. “I CAN be a Pediatrician.”