My last rotation of residency has begun, and it's been a hell of a rude awakening. After 7 straight months of family medicine (and before that, two months of babysitting a Level II nursery) it's been a long time since I've done any 'real' medicine. And now it's somehow become me and one staff covering a ward of a dozen people who spend much of their days actively trying to die.
It's funny, but that aspect of this rotation bothers me less than I thought it would. People die. It happens. More often than not, people die when their time has come. It's never easy to say goodbye, but it seems somehow less hard to swallow when an 86-year-old man dies after a lengthy illness surrounded by extended family. It's a good death.
Not that we let everyone have the 'good death' that (in my opinion) is the ideal way to end your time on earth. Whether it's due to the patient's wishes or the family's, many people are subject to endless lines, procedures and resuscitations before they finally pass on. Medical science is quite adept at prolonging life, even when life is not meant to be prolonged. And I'd be lying if I said that it wasn't disturbing to be doing chest compressions on an elderly man with multiple medical problems, or intubating an end-stage COPD patient for the 9th time in 2 years. Some people were just meant to die. Peacefully. Without cracked ribs and tubes down their throat.
Funny that death doesn't seem to bother me as much when I'm faced with it on a daily basis. But you can bet your ass I'm getting "NO CODE" tattooed across my sternum when I hit 75 or so. Assuming I last that long.