- How did I feel when I got home?
I felt more well-balanced. Although pediatrics was a steep learning curve for me (“Oh we don’t give cold syrup to kids this young?”), I really enjoyed the patients I was caring for every day. I didn’t mind staying late or waking up early, and I found a little more free time to balance my life outside the hospital with things that have been pushed aside with other clerkships. Outpatient peds clinic nearly converted me after a whole week getting spoiled with sleep and sauntering into the hospital at 9am. Almost.
- Did I feel excited to look up the illnesses and diseases in the patients I was caring for, or to study for the shelf exam? Was there diversity in the conditions being treated?
Gahd, no. I mean, learning the basics of bronchiolitis and viral gastroenteritis will help me in any field I end up in. And hopefully, I can look a little less clueless when a stranger inevitably points to their kid and asks me what’s wrong with it. But in all honesty, I had to drag myself to study each night. I remember how eagerly I would go bouncing into a coffee shop to bury my head in a surgery textbook despite my exhaustion and spending all day in the OR, and it became increasingly apparent how different specialties truly pull at you. All in all, the kids were great – but asthma algorithms, growth charts, and counting wet diapers is not my jam.
- What were the main feelings I encountered while working with the patients?
I honestly love working with kids. Usually they are pretty healthy. Taking a social history is a breeze. They are pretty cute for the most part. And I feel like I’ve succeeded in life every time I finally get one to laugh at me. What I liked most of all about having pediatric patients was the absence of internal bias when treating them. There was never a lingering shadow of “metastatic cancer” or “2x CABG” weighing down our medical decision making. The kid is sick? Let’s treat them. I liked that.
- How much direct patient contact was there?
A lot. And I liked that. I miss interacting with patients and getting to hear their stories without having to hurry along to the next patient. And pediatrics was overall a slower pace with more time spent in patient interactions. “How did they first discover your brain tumor?” “How were the first few weeks after bringing him home from the NICU?” “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I also really liked that physical exam plays such an important role in pediatrics. You see a bulging, red ear drum holding back a pocket of pus and prescribe some antibiotics – just like that. There were many times when a regular viral bronchiolitis turned out to actually be bacterial pneumonia after we noticed diminished breath sounds over a soggy pocket in their lung.
- What were the humdrum aspects in the patient population or workflow that would have to be tolerated for the rest of your life?
Everyone always says the downside of pediatrics is having to deal with the parents. I actually didn’t mind the parents. I didn’t really mind the boring diagnoses either, such as conjunctivitis or strep throat, because that meant I just got to spend more time playing with the patients since the diagnosis was covered. I guess the aspect I enjoyed the least was the smatterings of protocols for seemingly simple diagnoses, and the pompous gloat of the medical team as they tinkered with making tiny adjustments to them, with seemingly little difference in the end.
- Does this specialty address one of the leading causes of death in the world?
Ultimately, yes. But not in a way that I see my own contribution to the world.
- How easily can motivational impact be integrated into a career in this specialty?
Very easily, I think. The youth is our future, isn’t it?
- Does this specialty focus on preventing problems or fixing problems?
A little of both, I think. But at the end of the day, I don’t think I really felt like I was necessarily fixing much.