Medicine From The Trenches

Experiences from undergradute, graduate school, medical school, residency and beyond.

Christmas in the Hospital 2015

I always readily volunteer for duty at the hospital during the Christmas season. My church celebrates one of our biggest services on Christmas Eve (I can usually get coverage for this) but I always spend Christmas Day covering for my partners who have families and children on this wonderful day. I am happy and grateful to have these duties.

On past Christmas Days, I have sometimes seen tragedy, loneliness and despair but I always see a joy in those who are working with me. We generally try to discharge as many people as possible for the holiday but we often have a smaller staff even with less patients to care for. This means that there is a wonderful “pitching in” by all of us, no matter what our jobs might be.

I have gladly transported patients to radiography humming along the way. I have gladly greeted all who are working on this day that is usually a welcome rest and get-together with family and friends. My Jewish colleagues always find great Chinese food to share, my Christian colleagues have brought in more food and goodies that I should be allowed to see in one place. (I am happily snacking on grape tomatoes and carrots).

The weather has been unusually warm for December for most of the country. This is welcome for us because we have not been dealing with the cases of hypothermia that sometimes fill our unit when winter sets in. We have seen an uptick in gunshot violence which is disheartening but in any urban area, this is something that we have come to expect regardless of warm weather.

For many young people, shooting another human being with a gun is an answer for presumed slights and many other problems. I have asked many of these young gang members, “Why?” because I just want to understand why they choose to kill, hurt and carry these acts with them for the rest of their lives. Too often, they can’t answer because they don’t survive; another grieving family who has lost a child.

On Christmas, I have tried to remind each of my friends and colleagues that I appreciate their role in my life. Some have been a lifeline for me this past difficult year and some have just been a joy because they are simply in my day to day life and breathe air. My partners have been a wonder and an education at times but always I am thankful for their knowledge and professionalism.

As the year ends and a new year comes in, I am looking forward to more challenges. Each year, I want to “push the envelope” of experience and knowledge. As medicine gets increasingly more scientific, I challenge myself and my students/residents to make medicine more human. I challenge them to take the time to listen and appreciate the wonder of another human being who has put their health and trust in your hands.

The wonder of medicine is that we are privileged to enter the lives of our patients and their families, many times, under raw and painful situations. It is up to us, as physicians, to bring as much comfort, skill and humanity to these difficult situations. I find that as I have aged in this profession, I cry more and feel more; not less. I never want to become immune to the humanity and suffering of my patients.

I also, as the leader of the health care team, want to continue to be mindful of the feelings of the first responders and the others on my team. We all have the same sense of despair when we find that despite our best efforts, a 14-year-old dies. We all feel that same sense of grief when a Mum cries out in pain after being told that her 14-year-0ld son did not survive.  I encourage all members of our team to share these feelings and feel them fully.

As I sit here in my office on this misty, foggy and rainy Christmas Day of 2015, I am thankful for this profession that I love. I am thankful for my life, colleagues and friends but most of all, I am thankful that it’s Christmas Day and the joy, lights, sounds and smells are everywhere.


25 December, 2015 - Posted by | medical school, on-call, practice of medicine


  1. I share Malaika’s sentiments – this is really lovely. I am also looking forward to more of your posts in 2016. All the very best 🙂

    Comment by wisewoodpidgeon | 25 December, 2015 | Reply

    • Thank-you so much! Happy New Year.

      Comment by drnjbmd | 25 December, 2015 | Reply

  2. This is such a beautiful post! I love your positive outlook on life and it’s so encouraging to hear what a great relationship you have with your colleagues and how you support each other. I look forward to reading more of your posts in the new year. Merry Christmas!

    Comment by Malaika | 25 December, 2015 | Reply

    • Thank-you so very much and Happy New Year!

      Comment by drnjbmd | 25 December, 2015 | Reply

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