Last Monday was the first day of my oncology rotation. The rotation is only two weeks long, and I requested specially (in spite of a very long commute) because I knew it would be my only opportunity to learn about working with cancer patients.
I spent most of last weekend sick with another cold (I’ve stopped keeping track of them), but when I woke up on Monday morning, I was certain I was well enough to go in. I popped a decongestant, drank a lot of water, and got going.
I must have looked even worse than I felt when I arrived at work. My preceptor immediately asked me if I was sick. Midway through our morning orientation—probably as I was blowing or wiping my nose—she told me she was making an executive decision and sending me home to get well.
I was mortified, of course. As soon as I’d arrived that morning, I knew it was a bad judgment call to have come in. Had I stayed for the day, I’d have been working with immunocompromised patients, which would have made my drippy, febrile and sneezy state completely inappropriate. It was a perfect example of not seeing the forest for the trees: I was so focused on showing up on my first day and doing a dutiful job as an intern that I forgot my primary responsibility, which is to help people. Not to expose them to pathogens.
I’m grateful to my preceptor for kindly but directly helping me to see this. It was an important wake up call. As the internship wears on—and at this point, I feel like I’m stuck in the toughest stretch of a marathon—I find myself relying more and more on sheer grit and stamina to get through it. But I can’t lose sight of the fact that this is a deeply and fundamentally human experience: on the other side of my work and my efforts are human patients who need my good judgment and care.
And I’m human, too: a dietitian-in-training who wants to do her best work. However embarrassing last Monday felt, I’d made what I thought was the right call when I woke up. I soon learned differently, but that doesn’t change the fact that I was doing my best.
Compassion, empathy, gentleness: the internship continues to teach me how to extend these qualities to myself and others. It’s softening me in ways I didn’t expect it to, not least in the way I treat myself. Even if that were the only life lesson I took away from the experience, I’d call it time well spent—my occasional cursing and complaining aside 🙂
Wishing you a self-compassionate week, as always. Here are some recipes and reads.
I love when my friend Sophia makes Greek food on her blog! These baked gigante beans are bringing me right back to childhood.
This chili peanut stir fry bowl is packed with simple ingredients and perfect for weeknights.
I got an air fryer this winter. So far I’ve used it exclusively for potatoes, which—as I keep telling people—is enough to make the appliance well worth it. I eat a lot of potatoes! Still, I want to branch out, and this crispy tofu recipe looks like a great place to start.
A simple, beautiful, and deeply green broccoli salad for spring.
I could always use another recipe for homemade baked beans. This one is oil free, easy, and looks just scrumptious. I love any recipe described as “sweet and tangy,” so I’m sure it’ll be up my ally.
1. It’s that time of the year when spring promises to be here, but wintery climate and wintery spirits drag on. I liked this article on coping with seasonal depression; it has creative, authentic tips from folks who live with SAD every day.
2. Important reporting from Mosaic on anesthesia awareness and the surprising prevalence of wakefulness during general anesthesia.
3. I had only the haziest idea of what a food web is until I read this article! So interesting.
4. This article on suicide among veterinarians is old, but I saw another, much shorter article on the topic recently that got me curious. I hadn’t given much thought to the longterm effects of the trauma associated with euthanasia.
5. Finally, some reporting in Popular Science on a new drug targeted to treat post-partum depression. I hope it lives up to its promise.
I’ve got a lightly sweetened, sneakily healthful cake recipe coming your way in the next few days. Happy Sunday, friends.