physician's plea poem phoebe chiAll Poetry

A Physician’s Plea

A medical student. A simple question.

“How am I supposed to go on caring?”

At the time, suggestions abound.
Work-life balance. Self-care. Hobbies.
Remembering our initial calling.
Remembering we still make a difference.
Remembering our love for medicine
and the privilege we have as caregivers.

But then the realization-
I don’t know the answer.

I only know that I have witnessed around me-
at every stage of training and practice-
evidence of emotional exhaustion.
Dissatisfaction.
Disillusionment.

Burnout.

So this is my plea…

A plea-
to students,
to colleagues,
to practitioners,
but–even more–
to myself.
A plea as we 
embark further into
the world of medicine.

A plea-
never to lose the satisfaction
we experience in caring for others–
the thrill savored
when we supported our first patient,
the warmth felt when families embraced us,
entrusting us with their care,
their health,
their lives.

A plea–
to preserve our love,
our burden,
our heart–
for mankind.

That despite challenges faced,
we refuse to lose what we have gained.
That despite the obstacles
in an ever-changing environment–
despite the self-doubt, criticism, personal struggles–
despite the constant immersion into death and suffering
and the consequent self-preservatory layers
of emotional shield–

Despite everything.

That we would continue
to feel,
to love,
to enjoy
Medicine.
Our patients.
Our calling.
Life.

Because this is my hope for the future.

That we would never lose the simple joy of helping others

Phoebe Chi, MD
Phoebe Chi, MD

As a physician, clinical educator, and managing editor of PhoebeMD: Medicine + Poetry, Dr. Chi aims to inspire, educate, and empower the reader community. She is the author of Being Empowered for a Healthy Heart: A personal guide to taking control of your health while living with chronic conditions, a poetry-infused health guide, and founder of Pendants for a Cause, a nonprofit organization aimed toward helping others.


74 replies »

  1. She squatted next to the washbasin, facing the narrow hospital bed where her patient was having his twelfth stroke. In her eyes, the firm resolve of a lioness. He read in her eyes, on her face: “Uncle, you’re N O T going to die on MY watch!”.

    Oh, this is a true story.

  2. I’ve never studied medicine but I can relate with losing love and interest for a field. Halfway through my physics degree my mental health troubles began and subsequently I lost interest in just about every aspect of my degree. Even started to hate it. With medicine I imagine going through something like that would be very different though, since it’s so connected to helping people.

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