Bad Day

Today has been lousy.  It\’s one of those days where you start to worry about being hit by meteors or lightning bolts.  Nothing huge happened, just an accumulation of many little things; but it got under my skin.

  • I keep my personal journal entries on on a program on my computer, and all of my files got erased.  No, I didn\’t have a back-up running, so they seem to be lost.  Yes, I\’ve tried recovery programs, but nothing seems to have worked.
  • I got a late start to work, and then was stopped by every possible red light, and the streets were filled with cars driven by old men wearing hats (scientifically proven to be slower than men not wearing hats).
  • When I got to work, I realized I left my cell phone at home.  I feel naked without it.  I wonder if naked people feel like they don\’t have a cell phone.
  • I had walk-in clinic this morning, which is supposed to be 5-minute quick visits only.  Already behind because of all of those old men in hats driving this morning, I was greeted with five patients already waiting to be seen.
  • One of the first I saw ended up taking me 30 minutes, and ended up being admitted to the hospital with heart failure.
  • I stuck my pen in my pocket without the cap and so now have a big black spot on my pocket.
  • There was other stuff that I won\’t share due to HIPAA, but let me just say that I am not a psychiatrist, but I do pretend to be one quite often.

So I was pretty grumpy.

It is days like today that is one of the hardest things about being a doctor.  I can\’t let my day get in the way of my judgment.  I can\’t use my snake-bitten morning be an excuse for me not doing my job well.  Each patient is here to get care from me, not hear about my day.  Each room may contain someone who is very sick, or who needs a compassionate ear.  People are paying to see me, not to hear me complain about my day.  Like it or not, the patient is the center of the universe in the office, not me.

But when I\’m in the mood to gripe, it is quite hard to turn my mind from the pity-party.  I want to invite everyone to the party.  Come one, come all!  Let\’s celebrate my misery!

Turning the mental switch that puts my emotions aside is hard, but it is essential in this job.  It\’s essential because sometimes that emotion isn\’t coming from my day, but instead from the sexually-abused child, the new cancer diagnosis, or the patient who thinks it\’s acceptable to be rude.  I\’m not immune to those emotions, but I do have to learn to put them aside so I can see things clearly.  The next room may be the subtle chest pain that is easy to miss.  It could be the person throwing subtle hints of suicide.

I appreciate the ability to gripe on Twitter and on this blog.  It was nice to hear my wife\’s empathy over the phone when I told her about my day.  But we all should never forget that the universe is not centered on us.  Some people have cancer, not missing files.  Some people lose loved ones, not get stuck behind little old men in hats.  Some people have terrible pain, not ink-spots on their shirts.  These days are going to happen, and (despite feeling otherwise) the last exactly the same number of hours as the rest of the days.  My job is to get through them without making them worse by so focusing on myself that I miss the pain around me.

I guess it\’s everyone\’s job.

19 thoughts on “Bad Day”

  1. xoxox doc rob.

    PS I've been told that hairspray will remove ink spots.

  2. Ditto what LizDitz said — I've used it on my husband's shirts when one of his got attacked by a leaky pen and it did a great job. Use something like Aquanet — cheaper is better.

    I'm sorry your day was terrible. I have a stack of t-shirts around here somewhere…

  3. Chrysalisangel

    While there are worse issues going on around the world, it's still OK to sulk a little when it's been a rough day in your world. Your still entitled to how you feel. Caregivers need care too. Have a better day tomorrow.

  4. I think you and I must have had the SAME day! It's not easy taking care of sick people. It can be emotionally draining, even for the most “stoic-appearing” docs out there, whether we show emotion or not. After all, we are human too. Hang in there, Dr. R 🙂

  5. No, Resolve Spray N' Wash is miraculous! It removes blood! Oh, and that mystery stain on my sweatshirt that was dried in the dryer before I noticed it. Ha! Take that!

    Any hints for remaining engaged but not entangled with patients in the face of a bad day? I'm a PT student myself and struggling with this… I don't think there are easy answers. Maybe I need a mantra? Imago Dei perhaps?

  6. Sorry to hear about your rough day! Some days are like that, even in Australia.

  7. And that is why your cyber friends are here! You can vent to us & we can listen & send you cyber hugs because you do not have to treat us as patients & we do not have to treat you as our doctor. So vent away when you need to. And I don't know if it is allowable here to mention names of programs but I had my ipod (read that 2nd brain) crash last week with 18 mos worth of personal notes. diary, medical notes etc lost forever so I feel your pain. My daughter recommended Evernote-which is backed up online automatically. Hope I haven't blundered here but you might try it.

  8. A part time poor-me moment is healthy and natural.
    It's full time narcissism that becomes the true burden.

  9. Hey, gripe away, Doc. It's frontline medicos like yourself who bind us miserable & helpless together with a sort of faith that there's a system (and people) who care. You're allowed a bad day – and to write about it!

  10. So, happy 4th of July….have a beer, hot dog and hamburger and fuggetaboutit…

  11. Old men behind the wheel who make turns so slowly that the traffic light turns from green to red, drive us to distraction. We'll be those men one day.

  12. Idiopathicmedicine

    This is one of the reasons that being a physician is so valuable – it gives us perspective and constantly reminds us that, regardless of how difficult a day we have…it could have been a great deal worse. I have a brief blog entry from a couple of months ago which refers to this as well (http://idiopathicmedicine.wordpress.com/2010/04…). I have enjoyed perusing your blog – an excellent site!

  13. Are your ink-pen and EMR interoperable ? I think there is a government regulation coming out on that.

  14. You know what's worse? Having cancer AND getting stuck behind the old man in a hat. Especially when you are on the way to the doctor.

    We all have our bad days, we patients know you do too.

  15. First, self pity is highly underrated. I love it. It is my reason for being. Indulge, indulge away, you are entitled.

    Second, you repeatedly demonstrate here what a good man you are, never mind doctor. After your pity party, please have a pat-yourself-on-the-back party. You are even more entitled to that.

    Thank you for being a good man and a good doctor. The world has too few of each. And thank you for sharing your slice of life with us.

  16. Sorry to hear about the bad day. For the loss of your files this may be akin to closing the barn door after the horse has left, but there are services that provide online backup for free (up to 2GB) such as Mozy. Another option is to use one of the new Skydrive-type services to store files such as Dropbox (again, free for up to 2GB). This lets you access them from any computer you own, and they are stored up in the webserver belonging the company. With both approaches you get the ability to retrieve older versions of a file (how many versions they keep is dependent on the tool you choose); this means that if you realize today that you messed up your file last Friday you can go back to a version that was older than last Friday and start from there.

  17. Excellent post Dr Rob!

    It's speaking to me right now.

    The hat theory is funny ..but just might be something to it. i would also add if elderly and barely able to see over steering wheel. 🙂

    Hope things are better now.

    It is great to be able to vent in blogdom.

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