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.


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
Our patients.
Our calling.

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.

  3. Beautifully shared. I see the compassion in your words and voice. Thank you for being such a caring person. You are gifted and called to make a difference. Each of us has a certain responsibility to do his or her part as well. May God continue to bless your ongoing efforts. 🙂

  4. Find the part of medicine that makes you passionate… where you care most…
    Then you know – the day you cease to care is the day you should do something else………… remember that. It WILL serve you well.

  5. Medicine is a difficult and emotional field. I have had nineteen surgeries since 2009 and am a total care patient. I have nurses and aids come to my home as well. I have conversations with much medical staff including my doctors (we have become very close over the last ten years). As you know, I have several specialists. We often speak about how hard it is not to get jaded or insensitive to a patient’s needs. But, many patients can be difficult to treat and also have bad attitudes. I am thankful for this post. It’s like a prayer. You have covered each aspect entirely. I pray for my caregivers often. I am most fortunate to have a team of excellent doctors and home care staff. God bless your servant’s heart. <3

  6. …to feel,
    to love,
    to enjoy–
    Our patients.
    Our calling.
    May you be blessed to have all the above and enough happiness always, Doc ! 🙂

  7. Beautiful and inspirational for anyone embarking upon this career or any career that makes a positive difference, no matter what stage you are at. There are always ups and downs in life, setbacks, times when we lose our way, question why we made certain decisions because of the pain experienced, the loss, suffering, or things don’t look as great as you hoped they would…So the answer of bringing you back to your purpose, and the delight in the positives, and your impact on humanity, the care for people, environment, wildlife, pets… health, while acknowledging the negatives, has immense strength, in renewal of purpose and motivation. Excellent Phoebe!

  8. As a medical student, i found immense value in your poem Dr. Phoebe. A very much needed beautiful message and fantastic video reading! –mollika (curefortheitch)

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