Friday, 14 September 2007

Fatality mentality

Mr Sumner is not a well man. 97 years old and just 4 days after major surgery, he initially stunned us with the speed of his recovery. Then, ten minutes after lunch, he suddenly slumped back into bed, cold and unresponsive.

I broke into a cold sweat of my own - none of my patients have died yet, and this was too close for comfort. I actually felt nauseous. Somehow the rising tide of bile stayed down just long enough for me to do the basic blood tests and call for help.

Even when you haven't made a glaring error - as far as you can know - the pressure when patients become acutely unwell is immense. It really does feel like your entire career, not to mention your mental stability, is riding on every change in the patient's blood pressure, every cough or hiccup.

Maybe this sensation (or something like it) stays with you, regardless of how senior you become. But I doubt it. Noone would stay in the job. So when do you lose it? Does the terror of catastrophe recede after the first patient death? Since I haven't yet had to certify any deaths, I can't stop thinking the first one must be just around the corner. At any moment, my patients could start dying all over the place. And I really don't know how I'll cope with that.

Excuse the abrupt end to the post, but I need to get some fresh air. I feel a bit sick.


steph said...

All part of the learning curve I suppose. I hope that both you and poor old Mr Sumner have recovered by now?

Jo said...

I hope that you are feeling better?

Wandering Odysseus said...

The feeling never really goes. However, after a few clitical events, you loose the feeling that its your fault (unless it is). Some events will go well and you will start to feel more in control and less panicy.

Good luck.