A Small Intern in a Big Hospital


I am a gopher. See my tiny paws. See them furiously digging and digging and digging. Little puffs of dirt and soil are thrown haphazardly over my little shoulders. My tiny brain was completely absorbed in the digging of that very inconsequential, very little, very specific hole. Tail in the air, head down, no breaks. Dig, dig, dig.

As a small intern in a big hospital, that’s me. Day after day, digging, with ever-increasing efficiency, my own series of tiny holes. Working so hard, so diligently, so blindly, on patient after patient, task after task. Each little checked-off box another clump of dirt I throw over my shoulder as I furiously dig each little hole. Each hole comprised of my best efforts at taking care of this patient today.

It doesn’t take very long to become a gopher. Gophers don’t know meaning. Gophers do not dig for a higher purpose. Gophers forget that patients are people. Do gophers dream?

Gophers live in days that are dark and short; they traverse hospital hallways and protocols that are dusty and bewildering. They are tired.

I am still a gopher, but now, with the end of the year glimmering ahead, the digging has a different tone. The days have lengthened, and the sun shines. Flowers bloom and chiefs talk of graduation and careers. My hands are callused by scut and death and pus. My fellow gophers are now my friends. I try to reflect. It is hard. My gopher brain can only stretch so far. I write a little. I think a little. Dreams hover just out of sight. Lessons learned linger nearby.

Then, with dirt in my hair and stains on my scrubs, I head home. My patients will need me tomorrow.

Ariella Rubel, MD, is a surgery intern.

This post appeared on KevinMD.

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