Memoirs of an Anaesthetist
Prof.Dr. M.Suresh MD, DA. KAPVGMC, TRICHY
As I sit back with a cup of coffee slowly inching towards the twilight years of my life I am reminiscing about the path I have traversed in life’s journey. Not very long ago when I started Anaesthesia practice rarely have I had the luxury of calling time my own. Now twenty-five years down, it makes me wonder if I have done the right thing by devoting so many hours of my life to the profession.Today it is just my wife and I at home. The children are all grown up and have flown the nest. Have I erred in life for not having spent more quality time with my children? Well in any case it is too late regret now.
I sent my boys to good schools. Gave them tennis lessons in reputed clubs, music classes, nice clothes and shoes, but I was never available to drop or pick them up from school.
I still remember the day when we were getting ready to go out for a dinner over the weekend and the look on the face of my son when I received a phone call at that moment. Disappointment was written all over his face. His words “Oops there goes our weekend” said it all. Such was my commitment to Anaesthesia that I was ready to sacrifice my family time for it. Was it to make a few rupees more or was it really commitment? Or was it the fear in my mind that I would lose my practice if I do not respond to an emergency call. Well it could be any of these. I leave it to you to decide which.
Today sitting alone at home I have realized that family should be given the due importance it deserves. Time is something that once lost can never be retrieved. So please spend quality time with your children and family. Teach them their lessons; help them with their homework and assignments. These moments will be cherished by both you and your offspring.
I have never attended a parent-teacher meet. Always managed to miss the annual day celebrations even when the children were getting a prize or be it performing at the cultural event. Here I am indebted to my better half who took care of all these things while I was busy saving patients (making money).
Well talking of money let me tell you this “As an Anaesthetist you can never be a millionaire but then you will also not be a pauper”. This I mean by practising Anaesthesia alone. Of course a number of our Anaesthetist colleagues have left behind Anaesthesia to become entrepreneurs and I feel their success in their excellent management of hospitals should be attributed to their anaesthesia background.
Now let me get to what I have felt being an Anaesthetist. Was giving twenty five years of my youth to the profession justifiable enough to warrant this sacrifice? Well I guess I still am passionate about my profession. The one look of relief and a word of thanks that the patients in labour give you after giving the first dose of epidural is enough to justify the hard work put in over many years. I am a Professor of Anaesthesia in a teaching institution. And it gives me great satisfaction to pass on the knowledge and skills garnered over the years on to the next generation.
Many a time the work of the anaesthetist goes unrecognised. The ways by which recognition can be gained is to establish your presence and impress upon the patients the importance of your role in surgery, intensive care, painless labour, etc. It is also important to make the Hospital and the surgeon understand your role in team work. Step out of the closed confines of the operation theatre and make yourselves visible to the patients and their families.
So how is it possible to balance your family and profession? This is possible when we work for a Government institution or for a corporate hospital with fixed duty hours. In this scenario we will end up with a fixed income as well. In today’s world one cannot quantify what is enough money. It is not enough to have a house, a car and a nice trip with your family once in a while. One has to make enough to make a foreign trip at least once every couple of years. Children seem to have become more demanding these days. Peer pressure seems to play havoc on the young minds. Leave alone foreign trips, making a trip to the annual ISA conference is proving to be a costly affair. Traveling expenses and accommodation for three days easily notches up not less than fifty thousand rupees.
I feel the need of the hour is unity among the fraternity. Group practice is one solution to a fine balance between family and profession. Here we can have a good income and at the same time quality time with the family. What we need is a good team with good cooperation and skills. All must be like minded. Be willing to share the income equally. Take holidays and week off keeping in mind the need of others. Share the work load. Maintain quality and maintain proper records. Team should have a leader to allocate work and his word shall be final. All places of work should have minimum standards of monitoring. There should be scope for expanding our operations. New members should be recruited. The project should be managed professionally.
Now let me tell you what I should not have done. I am a government employee. I am also allowed to have a private practice. Like I said earlier one never realises as to what is enough money. And so I ran around to wherever I was summoned. From one hospital to another and from there to another and so forth. Anaesthetising patients was never an issue. My prime concern was to reach my destination on time. I would like to confess here that I may have not done justice to my profession on a number of occasions. This I have realised is what should not be done at any cost. After all our primary concern and responsibility should be to keep the safety of our patients uppermost in mind. So to avoid these kind of events I suggest that do not bite more than what you can chew.
At the start of a doctor’s career, he has all the time in the world. Later on in life he has all the money he needs, but no time. So when the time is ripe ask yourself “do I spend all the money I make”. Well if not so why go running around making more. Save for a comfortable retired life. Get adequate health insurance. Go around and see the world. Don’t spoil the kids by leaving too much for them to flaunt and throw away. Just as you made your livelihood they too will make theirs.
Now to summarise I would suggest that you limit your practice, spend quality time with friends and family, enjoy life to the fullest, be content in life and experience the joy of being an anaesthetist to the fullest.
After all” You live only once so live it in style”