Yesterday was an unexpectedly busy day. I mean, it was a Wednesday, and Wednesdays – during the time I’ve been employed at my current place – have always had a moderate patient load. It was hardly ever exhausting to work on a Wednesday. But yesterday’s workload took me by surprise. My God, I felt like dropping my pen & stethoscope midway and making a dash for the street.
I kept consulting. The patients kept piling. I was hungry. It was almost 1pm. I knew I needed a break. Patient load was bursting at the seams, but I knew I needed a break to have a quick bite and exhale. You know what I did? Politely excused myself to the nice lady who came in to see the doctor (me), and went to a quieter part of the building to eat in peace for five minutes. It was obviously a rushed meal, because I felt guilty, like I was a cause of delay for patients who had already been waiting long. As I battled my guilt while digging into my homemade lunch, I had to tell myself that I actually needed this, that I had told God & myself I was never going to be the doctor who neglects het needs completely in the bid to be of service. Supposing you faint now Ada, I asked myself, what will you have gained? Won’t another person take up this position? Won’t life go on without you?
It sucks that I have to carve this out myself. Apparently, I am expected to work for 7-8 hours at a stretch each day I show up to do my job. Somehow, I should be able to keep up with the demands of this job & attend to each patient that walks into the consulting room with a smile on a face and head in the game for 7 hours uninterrupted. If I wasn’t expected to, if many doctors & healthcare professionals at large weren’t expected to, a break would have been part of the daily schedule.
Doctors are human beings like the patients they are to treat, people often forget that. Spending six or more years in medical training does not award us with paranormal strength and endurance. We get tired, we need to eat, we have to refuel to be at our best. It is the height of inhumanity to demand ridiculously long work hours from someone and not institute a break period. It is dangerous to be tired at work in many walks of life, let alone one that involves direct access to human lives. The whole thing really hurts me because I know it can change but somehow these aspects of work are not considered priority. These work rules did not fall down from heaven carved on a stone. Humans made them, therefore humans can adjust them. Work should be compatible with life, for goodness sake.
8.42am on Thursday morning. It’s the next day. I’m finishing up this piece and praying for strength & and easier workload today. I also have it in mind to be unapologetic about taking needed breaks for my own health. I will not be the doctor who sacrifices their own life on the alter of service. I will good care of them, and I will take good care of me.