26 September 2012

A few weeks ago, I was approached by a contact on Twitter who asked me to participate in an online “blog carnival.” The theme was motivation and how it plays into our roles as patients, providers and caregivers. The deadline for submission (which I just looked at) was September 17th.

I find non-medical writing very difficult – I need a large chunk of free time combined with a strong dose of inspiration to put together a more creative post. Rarely do free time and inspiration co-exist in my world.

However, the topic of motivation has been rolling around in my head for a few weeks now. And while I missed the deadline for the contest, I’m really not one for competitive writing anyway. So what motivates me?

Being a physician is hard. I’m not complaining – this is my chosen profession – although I think it actually chose me. The responsibility of taking care of patients and performing surgery is physically and mentally draining, the hours are incredibly long, and my life is never my own. Many of my patients have been diagnosed with breast cancer – the anxiety and stress in the consultation room is often palpable. Despite our advances, and modern medicine’s best efforts, patients do not always survive. I take many patient stories home with me each and every night.

One of the reasons that I decided to specialize in breast surgery was that I recognized early in my career that I actually liked talking to my patients – not the stereotypical general surgeon. I enjoyed getting to know them and their families, and to have a more personal type of professional relationship.

So despite many personal and professional challenges, and the frustration that our science is not exactly where it needs to be, I continue to love what I do and could not imagine another career. There are ways that I can help that do not involve the operating room or a scalpel. What motivates me? It’s simple really – I can’t always cure, but I can always care.