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Gratitude Remains in Style, Even in 2020

Op-Med is a collection of original articles contributed by Doximity members.

The celebration of Thanksgiving looks different this year, and we find ourselves shifting and modifying what “normal” looks like. However, despite the turmoil that 2020 brought, many clinicians are still able to reflect on a moment of thanks. Here are a few thoughts Doximity members have shared with us.

Many clinicians said that they are grateful for their health and their families, especially as they witness the challenges their patients are facing during the pandemic. One otolaryngology doctor shared, “It’s 8:35 p.m., and I’m on tracheostomy No. 4 on the COVID ICU as I stare down through my fogged powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) as the dilator slides over the wire thinking, ‘Life is GOOD!?...’ I am thankful for my own health in this crazy time.” 

Others are thankful that their patients are paying better attention to their health and taking their health a bit more seriously. “They are asking questions instead of me telling them what they ought to do. This COVID crisis has made them see how diet and exercise will be beneficial to their health,” said one NP.

During a time when unemployment levels have hit record highs, many clinicians are appreciative of their careers, however, challenging their work has been in recent months. What’s more, many are grateful for the opportunity they have had to help save lives. One gastroenterologist reflected, “I am so thankful God has given me the ability to take care of some of the most desperately ill cancer or suspected cancer patients.” Being with patients through difficult times has been a privilege to some clinicians, as one shared, “I am thankful every day that I have the privilege of being with someone on what may be the worst day of their life — and having the opportunity to try to make that better.” And having the ability to support patients even during the pandemic is something other clinicians are grateful for. For example, a psych NP, thankful for the ability to still see patients, said, “I get to be with my patients in a more authentic way, meet them where they are, and feel a connection that wasn't possible before, and they appreciate that.

Sometimes being thankful for the ability to care for patients comes when least expected. For example, being in frontier Alaska when one ob/gyn was called in for an obstetric emergency to manage an inverted uterus, “I knew what to do, and I did it. The ultimate right place, right time,” she said.

Still, others are thankful not only for their careers and financial stability, but also for retirement, as one doctor stated, “I’m thankful to be out of the meat grinder that is the practice of pathology.

Reports of burnout are high and climbing, especially during this pandemic. It can be a challenge to mitigate burnout, but working with supportive colleagues and teams may help. One hospice and palliative care NP reflected, “I could not function very well without them!! I learn so much from my team members!” It is also valuable to have a supportive boss and mentor, as it can influence how clinicians practice. One pharmacist shared his gratitude toward his boss, “His vision of truly caring for all of our patients has raised my awareness of how I treat people.

While mentors change throughout one’s life, some clinicians shared their indebtedness to previous mentors who have guided them in their career path of medicine. “I will be eternally grateful to my high school teacher [... and] the infectious diseases chief at the University of Iowa [for] their teaching and encouragement, and for giving me a boost into medicine, specifically into infectious diseases,” said one infectious disease doctor reminiscing about the start of his journey toward internal medicine and infectious diseases. 

Many are thankful for their patients, and receiving sincere thank yous from them has meant a lot. A pediatrician stated, “[I am grateful for] anytime I get a big hug from one of my little patients! I love them, and it feels good to be loved back!” Sometimes, previous patients come back to visit a decade or more later to express their gratitude, as another doctor shared, “Having two women thank me 15 and 27 years after I first treated them as 3-year-old and 14-year-old girls for recognizing then that they were being abused and needed help. Rare to get thanks from your former pediatric patients so many years later.

What clinical moments leave you feeling thankful or grateful? Share with us here or in the comments below.


Illustration by April Brust

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