Thursday, August 27, 2009

Overcoming fear of failing as a doctor

I have been practising as a pediatrician for over 22 years now, but whenever I come across a very sick child with complications and so on, I am afraid that I am going to go wrong somewhere and miss either the diagnosis or the management and lose the child for ever. I know that my fear is not irrational because every doctor, during his/her professional life, makes some errors of judgment, not all of which are going to kill his/her patient(s). This is because medicine is a very complicated science, and in some respects, it is not even a science, but an art that one learns throughout life. It is not even just an art, but also an act of faith: faith in one's own self as a doctor, faith in the abiding sea of knowledge that a doctor draws upon, faith in experience being a bigger teacher than books, and ultimately, faith in the Almighty: the most agnostic doctor will look to the skies for divine help when his patient fails to improve under his treatment.

I thought about all this for the last six days as I struggled (and am still struggling) to save the life of a newborn who is under my care. While there is a secular trend towards improvement, the child keeps having episodes of worsening which leads me to believe that, through her, the Almighty is testing my faith. I am happy to report that the baby is now showing improvement.

Such is life, and such is the tension in the mind of a clinician.

1 comment:

karim said...

Very thoughtfull post on overcoming fear .It should be very much helpfull.

Karim - Creating Power