If you've been following me for the last two months, you probably know I'm spending my gap year between college and medical school working as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or a glorified butt wiper/adult babysitter. I'm sorry, but that's just how it is.
I've learned a lot of things along the way, which you can read here and one of them is that I do not want to be a Geriatrician - an old people doctor.
This post is highly appropriate since one of my friends who has always wanted to be a Geri doc just told me this weekend she no longer wants to do that either. I was shocked but thoroughly amused! (Sidenote: I'm making her guest post soon about her first year of medical school so keep a look out for that!).
Just like when I talked about not wanting kids anytime soon (although all these weddings and cute babies on Instagram are making me giddy), I promise I actually do LOVE the elderly population. I love the stories they share about their families, growing up, getting married, their careers, etc. It's fascinating - especially because I've been blessed to know and work with so many veterans and members of the "Greatest Generation."
With that said, I have the inescapable feeling that I'm simply not cut out for this sub-specialty of medicine. Here's why:
1. Elderly people have even less of a filter than I do.
I learned early on from my great-grandma that the older you get, the less time you waste filtering what you have to say (I can't wait to get old!). Granted all the women in my family already lack this trait so I thought it was just a woman thing for a while.
Elderly people comment on everything; especially your appearance which can go one of two ways. Something like, "You look like you've gained weight...in your butt especially," can really put a damper on things (and cause you to cry in a linen closet). On the flip side, an impromptu marriage proposal can totally make your day. Regardless you never know what comment is going to fly out of their mouths and unlike children, they aren't always cute when they say it.
2. Everyone is kicking the bucket.
Let's face it, no one is getting any younger. While this can be argued for all patients, geriatrics are knocking on death's door. One false move and an innocent fall turns into a week in the hospital and a fatal case of pneumonia.
Here's the thing - I get attached easily. I've already lost a number of patients this year and death is hard - even when you know they are at peace and no longer suffering. While I know death will be present in any specialty I choose, OB-Gyn is looking really attractive right now - it's the business of creating life!
3. Too many medications.
Management of disease and the aging process usually includes medication for things like chronic pain, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. Keeping side effects and drug interactions at bay is certainly an important role of a doctor but it's not something I'm too terribly excited by.
4. Too much of their day revolves around their bodily functions.
You haven't seen a grumpy old person until they can't have a bowel movement. Some of us judge a good or bad day by our interactions with others, the length of our work commute, or the quality of The Bachelorette and accompanying twitter discussion but the elderly have but one benchmark - bodily functions.
It seems like most old people have a heavily regimented bathroom routine and will not hesitate to describe in detail the actions or inactions within that routine. Up until recently, I denied that such bodily functions even existed for the female population so a job spent catering to these concerns isn't my cup of tea. (Might as well cross Gastro off my list, too).
5. They are like children, only adults.
People say that as we get older, we start to revert back to our childhood which seems to be true a lot of the time. We start to lose our ability to function independently and start to rely on others to perform many daily living activities - this is where I come in. Families get involved and start making personal decisions for their loved ones.
This is all well and good except elderly people aren't children - you have to respect their autonomy. Sure you can suggest changes to their diet or personal schedule but unlike children, they don't have to do what you say and they probably won't. What could be more frustrating?