It was late in the afternoon on a Friday last month when I was in the break room on LDR, having a bite to eat before a long night of oxytocin induction, when I saw it. It had been a hard week for all the usual reasons, but also because a lead MOA had handed in her notice and, in doing so, expressed disappointment with how our office ran. That landed hard, but I just had to get through the night on call, then I anticipated rest and the ability to carry on.
As I scrolled through our office communication platform, I saw anything but rest. I saw that our office manager, with us since we opened our doors six years ago, had just quit with two weeks’ notice and an online message of “I can no longer work for you.” We were about to be unimaginably short-staffed, emotionally rocked, and absolutely gutted after a year of swimming upstream against COVID trying to keep our fourteen-doctor family practice functioning.
In the days that followed and as the tale continued to unravel, my heart was cracked right open, and I wept. I questioned absolutely everything. Was I fit for this work? Had I made terrible decisions? Did my peers think poorly of me? Was I sacrificing my family for something that I shouldn’t be doing anyway? I questioned my insight, my abilities, my worth, my values, and, many times, my desire to keep trying. Mostly, however, what I struggled with was this: what I was providing for our office was not enough for those I thought closest to me. And, worse, I saw no way out, as I simply had no more in me to give.
My usual letters to you are filled with hope and love and optimism and power and joy. Today, of all days, I should be giving you that and more because May 19 is BC Family Doctor Day. But I’m not. I’m tired. I’m frustrated. And, honestly, I’m angry.
I am angry because I have to work within such a constrained system that continually forces me to the brink. Time and again, I am forced to cling and claw and drag myself back. I’m angry because I doubted myself. I was not trained in human resources, small business ownership, conflict management, or IT. Nor frankly was I trained in cognitive behavioural therapy, lifestyle management, poverty, stillbirth, chronic pain, and resistant hypertension. Yet here I am.
Most days, this is fine. It was my choice. Most days, I love doing it and feel incredibly privileged while doing so. But when the system I work in subjects its own to a perpetual squeezing, a constant ‘just one more thing,’ an incessant guilt of not enough, and does so in such a way as to callously lead us to doubt our abilities and morals and worth – no, just NO. No longer is it okay for our army, for the countries we fight for, to leave us languishing on the battlefield. This is not okay.
So today, on the threshold of BC Family Doctor Day, I’m not going to give you joy and optimism. I’m not going to tell you how great you are and thank you for all you do and gush about the beauty of this profession. You already know that I think you are, in fact, the solution to much of what ails our entire planet. You know that my heart expands every day through the light of my patients and what they give. You know this, you don’t need a reminder from me today.
What I am going to tell you today is this: it is okay today to be tired, to cry, to swear, to want to quit. Go ahead. Here’s a pillow, now scream. Those things are okay today, those things are safe today. However, if in the process of doing those things you start to doubt anything about yourself or think that maybe YOU are the problem – NO. Just stop. Pick up the phone and call me.
Because on BC Family Doctor Day, and if I have my way, every damn day going forward, no one is getting left on the field. That is no longer an option. The status quo is a choice – no longer should we choose it.