This quote from the film "Taken" resonates deeply with me as an obstetric hospitalist: "I don't know who you are … but what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career." It may seem unusual to draw parallels between a character's mission to save his kidnapped daughter and the role of an obstetric hospitalist, but the similarities are striking.
In the realm of obstetrics, every moment is crucial. The stakes are high, as two lives are at risk with every birth. As an obstetric hospitalist, I am the specialist who intervenes when complications occur and situations escalate beyond the capabilities of the routine care team. I possess a unique skill set, honed over a lengthy career.
My role demands a comprehensive knowledge and extensive experience that is distinct within the medical field. I must be prepared to handle any situation, from managing high-risk pregnancies to performing emergency cesarean sections, and everything in between. I must think quickly, make instantaneous decisions, and remain composed under immense pressure. Furthermore, I must know when to assist the primary physician in navigating a potential crisis, intervene when necessary, and get out of the way when needed.
For example, I was asked to assess and help diagnose an unusual case of uterine rupture. This was atypical in that the patient had no risk factors other than a rapid labor. She had not undergone any previous abdominal surgeries or procedures. In this instance, I had to swiftly introduce myself to the patient, confirm the diagnosis, and help coordinate the emergency team for immediate surgery. This operation had life-saving and life-changing implications. I was assigned all these tasks within a short timeframe. I had to establish trust among the patient and the primary physician in a matter of minutes. This was a challenging situation with severe consequences if not promptly addressed. There was very little room for indecision. The primary physician and I had one goal, and that was to take care of the patient and her baby.
Unlike the character in "Taken," I don't have the luxury of time or the ability to strategize my approach. I must act instantly, relying on years of experience and extensive training. I must be proficient in both routine and unexpected scenarios, capable of smoothly transitioning from one to the other as the situation dictates. And above it all, I have to maintain my connection with the patients and my colleagues. I work to keep the trust and lines of communication open at all times in a time in which our society receives so much information from various sources. This is a daunting task long-term much less in five minutes with people who've never heard of you until the moment you stepped into the room.
Many people are unaware of the extraordinary demands placed on an obstetric hospitalist. We are expected to be experts in our field, ready at a moment's notice, and able to handle any situation with professionalism and skill. We must be compassionate yet decisive, and always prepared for the unexpected. However, I am not invincible. I do not know everything nor can I do everything. I continually learn from my patients and colleagues. As renowned sushi chef Jiro Ono said in "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," "You must dedicate your life to mastering your skills. That’s the secret of success. … And is the key to being regarded honorably.”
So, while I may not know who my patients are, rest assured that I possess a unique set of skills, skills I have acquired over a long career. An education that I have utilized repeatedly. I am an obstetric hospitalist, uniquely qualified to protect the lives of mothers and babies in their most vulnerable moments. I am ready to step in when they need me most.
Like the character in "Taken," I am committed to using my unique skills, my knowledge, to protect and save lives. However, unlike him, I don't operate in the world of fiction. I operate in reality, the reality of life's most precious gift — birth. In this reality, every second, every decision, and every skill matters.
What unique skill set helps you in your profession? Share in the comments.
Dr. Rohana Motley White is an obstetrician/gynecologist in Orlando. She enjoys traveling, reading, and hanging out with her daughter. Dr. Motley White is a 2023–2024 Doximity Op-Med Fellow.
Illustration by April Brust