As you know, being a Doctor is really enriching, rewarding work – yet there are sometimes  sacrifices we doctors have to make in the world of healing and helping others become well again. Irrespective as to whether or not you’re a consultative or a more procedural doctor, there is ample time constantly spent on exams and classrooms, as well as clinical research and on call responsibilities to name. These sacrifices take you away from family, friends, travel and other pleasurable, social experiences in most cases.

When out and about in the rare social environments, people always want to know what you do for a living. Being a business consultant as well as a doctor in my own business, I can alternate the two cycles – it all depends on your mood to dis-attach from your new life in medicine. Your entire life is medicine. Sure, there are times where doctors may do the complete opposite to what they advise their patients to do; for example to stop smoking, yet working in medicine is all about being authentic and staying strong. Although everyone is still entitled to a vice, including doctors.

It is easy to reply to a complete stranger who sees you at the bar, and wants to get to know you; irrespective as to whether or not you’re alone or with others. They might ask you (respectfully of course) “do you smoke?” and your common reply would be “no I don’t, because I am a doctor.”  Then all those curly questions about their own health come out. Why? They assume that you’re a GP or surgeon type medical doctor, even if you’re a doctor in the psychological sciences where surgery and prescribing drugs is not allowed. The moment they realize that I help people change their own minds towards the wanted, they ask even curlier questions. You feel that it is your duty of care to answer them professionally, and it is okay to admit you don’t know about a particular area of medicine. As you know, medicine is so complex – this is why there are so many specialties. Med and psych school can only cover so much.

Even when you’re taking a break from practicing medicine, you’re still called to be a doctor in certain situations. For example, recently I was staying at a friend’s place, and her father has been unwell. Apart from giving him some mindset treatment, I also had to check his pulse. He does have what is known as arrhythmia, in other words an irregular heartbeat. NLP and counselling was provided to take him away from focusing on his not so healthy heart, to give him analogies to help him focus on what he wants – being a healthy heart. His son is also a psychology doctor. Us doctors are a team, a multidisciplinary team involved in a patients care.  I could have also administered hypnosis to help him relax about the situation, to only prevent the situation from becoming worse. Psychological and neuroscience can only go so far…now he needs a cardiologist.

There was another instance where a patient came to see me for hypnotherapy pain control due to some heaviness in her legs. She was a young person, and her GP thought she had gout. I found out that she was taking the pill, and this could be a blood clot, and I then explained to her that hypnosis will not work in this situation. I advised her to head straight to hospital, and it turned out that she sustained a blood clot/DVT, and was rushed in for haematology treatment, and was in hospital for a week. She has to continue to take blood thinners for this, and I have maintained her as a counselling client to treat her depression as a result. This is where medicine is a lifestyle, and where doctors as a community work together and share referrals. There have been therapists and other doctors who have referred patients onto me conversely. Do not worry about the money. Focus on patient care first, and the rest will follow.

In such social situations when those loved ones and friendly strangers know that you’re a doctor, and they have a loved one unwell; they also want to know the root cause, and possible treatment options. Even though cardiology is not my medical speciality (neuropsychology is), I was able to legally advise that it is highly possible that ammonia in the steroids he had to take for his thyroid problem could have restricted blood flow and oxygen to the heart. Excessive food in the festive season could also be another culprit. Possible treatment options? An intravenous drip with a tube is a possibility, even as far as open heart surgery depending on the extent of the problem.

In those situations, you do not care about your consulting fees. Karma definitely works in this lifestyle, of which I became accustomed to as a leisure and lifestyle freelance writer prior. You just know it. The very next day, I was at a bar with this same friend, and it was my turn to pay for drinks. We both wanted some expensive champagne to see in the new year. I had my credit card ready to pay as soon as the champagne was poured, and then out of the blue the guy in front of us said “it is on me.” Wow, through this act of love through my work for this particular friends father, providing some psychological treatment to him in bed, karma had rewarded me with someone else picking up the tab in exchange for the 20 minutes I suddenly became his doctor without expecting anything in return. This particular friend was amazed that I was suddenly ‘lucky’ that my round of drinks was provided for. She then received a phone call from her family to advise that her dad is miraculously much better, although the irregular heartbeat is still hanging around. Then this friend said to me, after clinking cheers to the champagne: “thank you so much Justine for what you did for my dad. You are an amazing doctor and friend. Keep having your break, and then hurry up and get back into practising.” This was an incredible moment, knowing that I even improved the quality of someone’s life for only 20-minutes work in my break unexpectedly.

Being a doctor allows you to travel, live in nice, spacious homes, and to enjoy life’s luxuries. People complain that doctors earn too much money, yet it has not always been, and this is not always the way. Think about the hours we work, plus the additional study, on call and ad hoc obligations that eat into your lifestyle. No different to a business owner, being a doctor is a 24/7 undertaking; even in your downtime when medicine is not on your mind. Think about the 6-12 years we spent at university to become such. Heaps of study and ongoing homework. In exchange we make the most of our abundances and those designer labels and expensive clothes, trips and items for the home. After all, life is short, let’s enjoy it and be proud to be of service. Always be prepared to be of service. You never know where you will treat your next patient, and it isn’t always in a clinical setting. Treatments have also happened in the park too, depending on the situation. If you’re in medicine for the money, you might need to re-think your career choice. Medicine is a lifestyle, and us doctors do help each other. On this, I wish you a Happy and Healthy 2015.

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