During my recent elective time I had the opportunity to work with two of the best attending role models of my clerkships thus far. What particularly set them both apart is the length to which they went to provide uncompromisingly high-quality patient care. These admirable qualities however tinged by a shared extreme difficulty in delegation.
The most direct consequence of this has been the detriment of their health. In the case of my attending during my outpatient cardiology rotation, this took the form of having to delay getting appropriate treatment for an ocular issue. In the case of molecular pathology, it took the form of working through a bout of the flu. Both of these individuals are fairly senior members of their department and could have heavy impacts if either took a turn for the worse. We were in fact confronted with the worst possible consequences. Sadly, we had a physician pass away from the flu in cardiology my first week on the outpatient service. Though in less-striking form, this was explicitly brought up in molecular pathology as well when my attending was asked about who would take on his responsibilities should he ever truly get sick, only for him to concede that there really isn’t anyone who can shoulder any sizable portion of his burdens. Beyond the acute health issues encountered is simply the long hours they impose upon themselves both routinely waking at 4 AM and continuing to work until at least 8 PM. While I have worked those types of hours during certain rotations two people in their late 60’s doing so is very different.
What I put all this into more perspective was a recent interprofessionalism activity in which I engaged this past week. Working with nurses, respiratory therapists and my fellow medical students helped to hammer in the point that no matter how skilled any of is individually, modern medicine does not really work effectively either logistically or for those within it when one person tries to do too much. Consequently, while I do very much aspire to be like the attending physicians I worked with in this regard I think I will always attempt to acknowledge my limits.