I had an exhausting day at work.

As each hour passed, I had more and more patients to see. There were so many patients waiting, with problems so complex, that at 1 o’clock in the afternoon, I asked my assistant to cancel a clinic so that I could finish while I still had enough space in my brain to make a list of the problems I would solve tomorrow.

There was not enough time to solve problems today, only enough time to make a good list.

The practice of medicine has a lot of unknowns and Hippocrates taught that the measure of a good doctor is the capacity to be able to tolerate uncertainty long enough that the real physiological problem causing a patient’s illness emerges. It takes a lifetime of medical practice to learn this skill – if you ever learn it.

As a psychiatrist, I am among the most disrespected physicians. The so-called “soft skills” needed for me to be good at what I do are often deemed to be “easy”, requiring little skill other than a kind heart and compassionate approach. All my colleagues who think that kindness and compassion and genuine respect for people are easy, need to try it for a few weeks. It takes years of practice to be compassionate with someone whose illness results in their being lice-infested, intoxicated and irritable. It takes a great knowledge of what illnesses someone could have to overlook the fact that they spat in your face and consider instead whether it was delusions that caused them to do this. And are those delusions the result of intoxication or some other disease process?

Among the Episcopal Baptism prayers is one that asks that parents learn “calm strength and patient wisdom”, but I have needed those more as a doctor than as a parent.

I am a reasonably good psychiatrist and, if you asked me why, I would say that it is because God has granted me “calm strength and patient wisdom” on days like today when I’ve needed them.

9 thoughts on “My COVID-10 Journal – Day 45

  1. WoolyTeatime says:

    Your work saves and improves lives. I can’t imagine a calling more worthy of respect than one that brings compassion, hope and understanding to others who need it. Thank you for continuing at a time when it puts your own well-being at risk.

    1. drgailbeck says:

      I am sorry it has taken so long to get back to your response to this essay. Just yesterday, I wrote about my colleagues and friends headed off to work in a long term care home. There are difficult days, but I love my work and my reward are the people who do well. That is so rewarding!

  2. hrobyn says:

    Gail, all you say is so true. Some others can discern one orchestra conductor from another, but I see only any person waving a batten. I think a psychiatrist is similar- most can see only any person asking questions, not its intergrated art & science, to “edit” individual & cultural epigenetic “baggage”

    1. hrobyn says:

      With a bio-psycho-social approach, and for all Doctors to remember MWIA’s motto- “to heal with the spirit of a mother”. I love your quote from Hippocrates.
      I am more mindful now, with my GP having applied for an ” end of life benefit” for 24/7 care in a Hospice within next 1-months, for my cancer.
      Robyn H, NZ

      1. drgailbeck says:

        Oh, Robyn, thank you for your wise reminder of MWIA’s motto – it’s a good one to live by, isn’t it?

  3. Andrew Fenus says:

    My living treasure. I wish I could do more to help. Your life and work as a doctor touches so many people. Rest assured that you will never be forgotten, Dr. Gail Beck!

    1. drgailbeck says:

      You’re the best – who are you?

  4. Katherine says:

    Thank you for all that you do.

    1. drgailbeck says:

      Thank you for reading.

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