If you recognize this line from Chance the Rapper’s song “Sunday Candy”….bravo and let’s hang out.
I’m on the return leg of a few days away from work with the Pastor. We enjoyed a good bit of rest and reprieve, but I couldn’t help to notice that people are people no matter where you go. I saw a man spend 10 minutes complaining to the pregnant hostess at a restaurant because his waiter didn’t stay at the table long enough after bringing out their meal. I watched a woman tell other patrons at a breakfast place that her waiter just couldn’t understand that she wanted “CRISPY bacon!” and how this was completely unacceptable. People were anxious to be the first in line to get off the plane just to stand around waiting for luggage with the rest of us.
At work I often refer to myself as “grandma.” While I’m not the oldest member of the faculty, each year I find new situations where a resident or medical student will ask me about how a technology or medication was used during my training to which I will reply, “um, well, that didn’t exist when I was in training.” Then comes the look. The one with the big eyes and the raised eyebrows indicating that my learner just realized that their attending came “before.” Before topical hemostatic agents were commonly used or available. Before targeted cancer therapies. During my training the HPV vaccine was introduced and we added sub-dermal contraception to our regimen of just 2 other long acting reversible agents. Now we have an even better HPV vaccine and our patients have more reliable contraceptive options than ever before. Residents are now trained in robotic surgery. In the last dozen years since I started residency the number of female physicians has grown by 40%. We’ve come a long way.
Certainly being a grandma isn’t all bad. You have the benefits of time and experience on your side. One thing I learned from my grandma is that as much as things change…things also stay the same. Narrow the differential diagnosis. The basic principles of surgery such as sterile technique and proper tissue handling are always going to be important. People are still people from generation to generation. No amount of technology or scientific advancements will replace careful listening to your patient’s history and learning to do a detailed physical exam. Nothing will replace what you accomplish when you put patients first.
I was fortunate enough to know both of my grandmothers. They cooked whatever food their grandchildren had in mind for that day or that meal. (Seriously- potatoes and chicken for me, spaghetti for my brother. Two entirely different meals!) But more than that they were generous with their words, their love and their lives. They put others before themselves. They made sure those around them were cared for and had their needs met. Above all, they treated others with kindness.
Maybe if we focused a little less on “me first” we could help eliminate a lot of the “me too” and the “not for you” we see across our screens on an hourly basis. If we could eat less crispy bacon, be a little more patient, move to the back of the line or give up our seat we just might notice our neighbors in need of help or our friends who are suffering. The world just might change. While we excitedly embrace new technology and advances in the world around us, may we also embrace the helpful lessons from our grandmas, like always choosing kindness and putting others first. In those ways, may we all strive to be the “grandmas” of our professions.