How do you know?

Perhaps the most common question I receive on this blog is a simple one: how did you know you should be a doctor? Well, I have written no less than 4 times on that subject, and posted a litany of reasons why to avoid medicine.

But the truth of the matter is that there is no way to know for sure. Is there any way to know for sure about any career decision until you've already made it? What I can tell you is this: all the reasons YOU think you would be a good doctor are bullshit. Total 100% crap. Because I had the same thoughts, and it just wasn't true.

I want to help people. I'm compassionate. I care. I had a grandfather who was really sick. Blah blah blah. This is all trite garbage, and doesn't cut to the heart of the matter.

In high school, I decided that I would consider being a doctor. Instantly, my teachers were enthusiastic. They thought I'd be an excellent doctor, as did a few college professors and a boss or two. What did they know? They didn't see my transcript. They didn't read my admissions essay. They knew nothing about my motivations.

In truth, being a good doctor is not one quality, but a myriad. It is compassion, but it's also conviction, empathy, faith, indignation, professionalism, perseverance, reverence, charity, dedication, hope, intelligence, skepticism, forgiveness, anger, and so much more. It is a whole subset of skills and traits that you don't know you have at the tender age of 18.

I realize now that all those encouraging words from my teachers and superiors, it was because they could see in me things that I could not see in myself. I wanted to become a doctor because I thought it would change me, make me different. They saw that the other than some coursework and a stethoscope, I didn't need to change a thing.

I needed that

I saw a patient today, and had some bad news. We talked about what we can do and how to approach it, but ultimately, things are getting worse, and we'll have to see if we can turn things around or not.

As I finished up, he said to me, "Dr ifinding, you gave me all kinds of news today that I didn't want to hear, but I'm glad you were the one telling me."

Thanks, dude. You have no idea how much I needed that.