The Fear of Sacrifice

In many ways, this has been an awe-inspiring, fantastic week (if I did a root cause analysis, I’d say there isn’t one cause, but many: all of my colleagues who are here with me).

But, I wanted to share a more sobering experience I had this evening. Today focused on more of the breakdowns in communication, transparency, and trust that cause patient harm. And, then, as if those problems weren’t enough, we ended the day on a video of a litigation commercial for malpractice (he doesn’t wear socks!). It leaves you with a feeling of uneasiness, with a smattering of cynicism and despair sprinkled in there too. Not only do I have to confront a broken system, bad politics, misaligned cultures (and this just within medicine), but I have to do it while some pretty terrible sounding people are trying to take advantage of that and put me out of business? Frankly, it’s enough to make you second guess your career path.

Zhen, who also shared these feelings, and I were discussing this when a quote came to my mind. It comes from a book by Lev Grossman, and I can’t give it to you perfectly, but the gist is ‘A hero doesn’t go on the adventure; a hero makes the sacrifice’.

This week, this town, this experiences has been a fantastic adventure. Days like today, though, remind me that being a hero isn’t fun, that it requires sacrifice. I only hope that when it comes time to be a hero for my patients, I have the courage and strength to make those sacrifices: of my ego, my time, my assumptions, etc.

UPDATE: I wrote most of that earlier this evening, and since then, I’ve revisited the post and have something else to add. Richard and I talked about rowing this afternoon, and I think anyone who’s done sports will get the analogy. There’s a moment right before the start of a race when I tell myself that I should just quit and walk away (swim really, since I’m in a boat). Rowing a 2K is easily the most painful thing I’ve ever done in my life, and, in that moment, I’m so afraid of what it’s going to cost me that I want to just avoid it. But I don’t. I race. And I don’t always give my all; sometimes that fear gets to me, if only a little. But I try, and try, and try again. And that fear is similar to the fear I talked about above: the fear that the sacrifices to make the changes for our patients are too great, too costly. That fear won’t go away. But that won’t stop me from trying, and trying, and trying.