Many moons ago, I was a 3rd year medical student on my pediatric rotation. I remember sitting down with my resident to get feedback and hearing those fateful words: “You could try being a little nicer to the kids. ” I ended up doing just fine in my pediatric rotation, but I was so relieved when those 6 weeks were finished.
A few years later, I thought I was done dealing with sick kids when I went into internal medicine. Of course, I didn’t realize that when I chose to sub-specialize I would have to do 4 months of pediatrics endocrine, I moaned and groaned about it every.single.day. My husband (who is in pediatrics) simply could not understand it.
Last week, I was sitting in our weekly clinical conference and listening to the presentation by the pediatric endocrinologists. The cases were fascinating, but as I was listening to the cases of newborns with hypoglycemic seizures and six-year-old with precocious puberty I kept shuddering and thinking to myself, “I am so glad I am not in pediatrics!”
You would think that now as a mother of two young children, I would feel more comfortable, but exactly the opposite. When I hear about sick kids, whether it be wee little babies with croup or a teenager learning how to use an insulin pump, something in the pit of my stomach knots up and I get sweaty and panicky. I can’t help but imagine my own children in those medical situations and my anxiety shoots up an even higher notch.
Some days I think back to those days when I was on my pediatric rotation and I wish I had the chance to tell my resident, it’s not that I don’t like kids. I don’t exactly know what it is except that it is some combination of helplessness and sadness which causes me to distance myself. I am too afraid of what would happen if I can’t make them feel better. It prevents me from relaxing, being able to joke around, being nice.
This is just me of course. I am so thankful for all my friends/colleagues in pediatrics who do provide care and hope to children every day. And each day, little by little, I am learning, as a mother and a physician, how to be a little nicer.