The Art of Becoming a Necessary Evil


In medicine, professionals walk into people’s lives when we are needed. Our patients are usually not happy we’re there, that we’re needed at all. We try to help them through the darkest and scariest, sometimes the last, days of their lives – and we’re asked not to form a relationship with them. When they leave our care, we are highly discouraged from maintaining contact – most times with the hint of termination hanging in the air.

Some people are angry at their diagnosis and they focus that anger onto us – unconsciously placing a faint sense of blame onto our impersonally clothed shoulders. We’re viewed as rude, ‘too busy to care’ and only in it for the money, as if our pockets are growing fat with every 10 dollar aspirin. We are often understaffed and sleep deprived, rushing to do all the necessary procedures and dressing changes, evaluations and so on. We scarf down half of a dry sandwich for lunch to get back to our patients, where we’re met with their anger for their wait. A wait they perceive has been prolonged by a lengthy coffee break, full of laughs and joviality. Sleep deprivation is mistaken for apathy. I found this thing I identified so strongly with myself, a love for my fellow man, a desire to help, was being lost. It was invisible to the very people I was trying to care for. I was becoming ‘a necessary evil’ and I couldn’t handle it.

The beauty in life became muted. My coworkers, the hardened veterans of the field who’d seen, heard and smelled it all, told me to soldier on. “You get used to it,” or “It gets better.” The same shit they tell you in high school. I would think about the brevity of life often and I would panic, thinking about spending the better part of mine ‘muted.’

As a creative individual I feared losing that creativity. I spend most nights pestered by insomnia, my faithful friend. Passing the hours reading, drawing, painting, sewing, knitting or writing. I bleed with a desire to share something with the world, something beautiful and worthwhile, pure in a way I could never be. Something that touches someone. At the time, I wasn’t making any progress toward that.

I couldn’t continue. I am not made of the same enduring and devoted stuff that composed my coworkers, the longer I waited the more apparent it became. I want to see all the good that I can in every person and situation around me, and when I find it I want to hold on to it.


One thought on “The Art of Becoming a Necessary Evil

  1. I decided to come back to this because I’ve been on the patient side of things. I do get the busy nature of it all– last time I saw my sleep doc, he was reviewing notes, then talking with me, then answering an emergency call. He’d seen my father earlier and was joking that he couldn’t understand why he had two patients on the same day with the same last name. He didn’t have enough time to talk with him properly (Dad is a new patient, I’ve been there for a number of years) and was asked to come back later… since it was just after my visit, I just decided to stay and sit in (we’d already signed all the paperwork okaying that).

    This is just one of string of doctors for him, and for me. We both share the same primary care physician, and we’ve talked about how things are busy and sometimes rushed there.

    Dad comes with me a fair bit to doctor’s appointments because he’s then able to fill in the family history (we tend to react to medicines in similar ways). When I saw a pain specialist, he had to explain the tonic spasms because the nurse practitioner hadn’t heard of them before.

    I have my physician handle the mental health stuff now, though, because after 25+ years in community mental health– I was tired of the schmucks, putzes, and other broken folks I tended to run into. Especially people that were in the field for what I thought were the wrong reasons (counselors that were ex-patients and weren’t completely well themselves). I got tired of being a guinea pig, especially with a long-time psychiatrist who tweaked everything through heavy psych drugs and sometimes wouldn’t listen, even when I was half dying and Dad and Cimmorene (my wife) were both there, virtually twisting his arm.

    Aussa Lorens (another WP blogger) works in that field… oh boy does she tell it like it is.

    No, I couldn’t ever detest all of my doctors, nurses, etc. — I’m grateful that the good ones will admit when they don’t know something. But I’ve had some that must have burned out, or calloused over, or something.

    Office staff is another story. Oh I can’t stand medical assistants or receptionists that yank my chain hard when I give an honest effort to accomodate them, fill out all my forms, have all my gov’t insurance, etc.

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