All Poetry

The Flawed Physician.

She stands facing a closed door.

Your door.

As her gaze converges onto
enameled surface, she notes its
texture- the evenness a comfort to
a moment of hesitation within.

Smooth and finished–flowing
imprints mapping the course of
fine fibers swept over timber.

Flawless.

She makes a move to knock,
but her hand pauses,
and for a moment she wonders
whether you will find her pleasant.

Whether she will be worthy of your trust.
Whether you will believe in her.

Because she is flawed.

Like veneer upon wooden door, she
is but a polished version of herself.

As she again surveys its exterior,
she is let in upon a different truth–
that from underneath the surface
the grain peeks through, coarse
and jagged, its valleys exposed,
blemish revealed, age betrayed.
It is but fresh lacquer upon a
damaged interior, eroded and
frayed by the stress of time.

Like a white coat to the skin,
it cloaks the imperfection
and vulnerability of that
which lies beneath.

A coat enshrouding
scars of personal defeats–
An awareness
of critical introspection while
striving to exhibit confidence and certainty.
A struggle
to remain objective while
craving to empathize with you.
A hunger
to continue feeling through perpetual
immersion into death and suffering,
while self-preservation casts increasingly

impenetrable layers of emotional shield.
And a fear
of not doing enough, while similarly
recognizing the peril of doing too much.

But as her knuckles meet the door,
she is reminded of an oath–taken
at the dawn of this journey–
an oath of compassion, of
integrity, of humility–

an oath to do no harm.

So as she enters
your room,

she smiles–
for she never forgot its
concluding admonition:

That one would never lose the joy of helping others.

Therefore as an imperfect human being,
she will do her best to ease your suffering,
treat your illness, be your advocate–
Not because it is her obligation,
but because this is her love–

To help her fellow man.

To care for you.

•      •      •

“…may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.”

-Oath of Hippocrates

•      •      •

caduceus


55 replies »

  1. Dear Phoebe,

    You have such a wonderful gift to bring heart and caring into healing. I believe that our society has been conned and tricked into believing that all of this high-tech, brainiac scientific gizmo and whizmo instrumentation and interfering with the Divine fingerprint of DNA, is just the way to go!

    As a child, I grew up in a little Mayberry in northern New Jersey. We only had one doctor in the entire town that covered an area of seven square miles. Dr. Borne was the smartest man in town, while simultaneously being an incredibly humble man.

    Dr. Borne had this gift of looking you square in the eye. I mean eyeball to eyeball, with the most sincerest and earnest look in his eye, before he would examine you. One day, when I was in my early twenties and Dr. Borne was nearing retirement; Dr. Borne admitted to me that he depended greatly upon his intuition, in treating his patients.

    I don’t know how it happened or why it happened, but it seems that intuition is now scoffed at by so many professionals in the healing arts. In my opinion, that is such a sad development.

    Phoebe, you are bringing back heart and soul to the healing arts. You are bringing back earnest and sincere caring to the art of healing individuals.

    Sincerely, Richard

  2. Oh, Phoebe, this is so important and, as a flawed RN I so relate (but I am retired now.) Next week I have an appt with a new Primary Care Doc. The one I was seeing didn’t listen and I’m sure didn’t know who I was. (This is not the one at my main home, but the winter one). But I do have a wonderful nephrologist here who recommended her–the new one–as someone he thinks I will connect with.You are so important to your patients and may you continue to find joy in your care of them.

    • Thank you, Victoria. I am glad to hear that you have a great nephrologist, and I hope that all goes well with your new doctor. It definitely is important to have one who you feel listens to all your needs. I wish you the best. 🙂

  3. Good evening Phoebe
    I do believe that this post is one of… and perhaps the most wonderful expression of honesty… humbleness… and compassion I have ever read… and to be able to express such tremendous emotion within your beautiful poetic artistry… is truly amazing…
    I wish this could be required reading for everyone in the medical profession and posted on the walls of every treatment room for the patient to read…
    You have enlightened us all by sharing it with us…
    Thank you…
    Michael

  4. Lovely thoughts, Dr. P. Sammy the Spoiled Cat sent us over. He’s right as usual. You’re pretty cool. And smart. And talented. Mom and I have had experience with amazing docs like you. And also a little bit of experience with the other kind….

    Love and licks,
    Cupcake

    • Hi Genevieve [and Cupcake]! Hehe…I follow your blog from afar and love it! I am so glad to hear that you have had positive experiences with caregivers…that is always a big encouragement to me. But unfortunately, yes…there is always the ‘other kind’… 😉

      Have a wonderful day to both of you! 😀 -phoebe and samantha (the kitty)

  5. As one who has worked with many Doctors and Specialists, those who have earned the most respect from all around them are those who can admit they are human (even to themselves!) then work with the patient to find a path to wellness. You have my admiration and respect Phoebe, and I am sure that of those you work with, both for your approach to your work and as a fine poet. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    Teaching poetry/creative writing to the medical community – wow! What an excellent idea! I can see the reaction of some of the more intractable members of your profession! Ha ha! 🙂
    You are a leading light…

  6. Wow, who wouldn’t be blessed to have such a “thought-full” , sensitive and caring doctor. We are always on the other side of the door, hoping and praying that you are exactly THAT, hoping it is personal enough for you to make the extra effort to comfort, reassure and share your valuable knowledge. As I get older, I realize more than ever the in-exact science of medicine and that ” one size ” does not fit all. It is wonderfully reassuring to read your words today. Oddly, I called my wife’s doctors group today to ask why we have not heard the results of her blood test 11 days ago. They couldn’t find the test or give me an answer, but assured me they would call me back in 30 minutes.That was 8 hours ago and they have closed for the day now. I know these things can happen, but still…. I know when it is time to find a new doctor like PuppyDoc ! Thanks for restoring my faith today ! 🙂

    • Aww thank you for your kind and encouraging words! I like to think that all us physicians mean well…we all go into the profession with a compassionate heart (I hope)…but maybe things along the way cause us to slowly change… I hope in the future all your encounters will turn out to be a positive one! 🙂 Have a great day! 😀

  7. Wow, this is deeply deeply moving. I have never seen a doctor write like this before, and it is also beautiful poetry. Thank you for being filled with compassion.

  8. A deeply personal look inside the mind of a deeply committed and caring woman who sees it ALL, each and every day…….from “better” to “worse” and everywhere in between. Never doubt though that just seeing that smile and the confident gait and warm hand doesn’t do WONDERS for those who want someone – anyone – to care. It takes a very special person to enter AND stay in healthcare in any capacity. Trust me; patients don’t see the doubt, hesitation, questioning that may be in your mind – they see the person who is HELPING them.

    Sending Hugs…………because sometimes that’s just all we need to go on (and on and on!)
    Pam (and Sammy too)

  9. This is so very beautiful. You almost had me tearing up… I said almost….:) Thank you for sharing that piece of you with us. You are a beautiful woman, with a great heart….and a great mind that never stops trying to find the answers to life either academically or holistically to give your heart solace on a daily basis and uplift others….I know your journey is not easy…. hugs….lovely read..thank you.

  10. My gosh, Phoebe, this is an excellent poem, yes, but also a beautiful (sorry, one cup of coffee, I lack the better adjective I really want here) testament to you as a doctor and to all (we hope) doctors who take the Hypocratic Oath (that’s the right one, right? :)). I think we all wear many coats, and we change them frequently, but the doctor’s white jacket is an especially important, serious one, and many of us on the receiving end tend to forget that the “wearer” is a human being, just like us. After reading this perfect poem, I will never forget that — thank you.

      • Very true. You know, I think I may have a new way of choosing a doc: I may ask them if they write. 🙂 That’s right (pun intended). When I think of Checkhov, Ethin Canin, William Carlos Williams, John Keats (just to name-drop a few, lol), I think of that humanity, that caring quality. I add you, Phoebe, to that list now, too. Congratulations! 🙂

        • 😀 You know what? You just may be on to something! I was just thinking about some of my other colleagues who write…and it does seem that they might be a tad more in touch with their emotions…maybe more sensitive? And maybe that translates into more sensitivity toward the patient? Hmm… 🙂

          • Okay, I’ll take this one step further (farther?) 🙂 … You should facilitate or at least present a paper on this very subject at your next conference. I’m serious! What if more doctors took up pen and paper and wrote? Could that change the way they practice medicine? I’ve often wondered about that in other endeavors as well. Just sayin’ — it is a topic worth contemplating. 🙂

          • You know…I have been hearing about some medical schools encouraging students to write poetry…even having poetry contests. So I think the idea is catching on. For one…writing helps us process our feelings/stress/traumatic experiences…in a healthy way, right? So I think the medical community is slowly finding that this therapeutic exercise is beneficial to both doctor and patient… 😀

          • I whole-“hearted”ly agree (sorry, couldn’t resist). And, may I add as one who used to teach, arts and humanities courses should never be dropped from the curriculum for that very reason, no matter what degrees are offered/studied. 🙂

          • Write … or podcast. or volunteer to speak at support groups or patient-conferences (not the ones held for colleagues) . . .

            It’s the attempt to connect when money’s not on the table – to reach out AND to listen to real concerns of the real people they treat, and to welcome feedback – that makes doctors human to their patients.

            I have heard so MANY horror stories about the way so many docs do NOT relate on any sort of human level – unkind, more than simply cold and detached. I wish every single doctor could know that a great many of their patents will be too afraid they won’t find the help they need from you, either, to remember that you are human too. That’s really asking too much of them to remember – it needs to be demonstrated.

            It’s OUR job as helping professionals to create a safe space. Even if there is little we can do to change much else for them, if we’ve lost our ability to meet human to human and to reach out with kindness, it’s time to find another way to make a living.

            Thanks for reaching out on your beautiful blog.
            xx,
            mgh
            (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
            – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
            “It takes a village to transform a world!”

          • Thank you for your kind words, Madelyn. I absolutely agree with you that it is our responsibility to provide a haven for those who need it. I feel like some in these professions have forgotten why they are here in the first place. I really appreciate your thoughts. 🙂

            Best,
            Phoebe

  11. What an amazing insight you have offered! To me, the patient, I just hear a knock and my GP enters the room. It never crossed my mind that he, like you, could also be going through a complex array of thoughts. Very enlightening Phoebe. Very thought provoking.

    • Thanks, Colin. 🙂 Being on this side of the fence, I feel the same way when I hear honest accounts of what’s going through the patients’ minds during their interaction with their physicians. At times it’s very surprising to me… 🙂

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