Viewpoint: On pursuing a career to help people in need

February 19, 2010

Some people forget that many of us went into this profession for reasons other than money, such as helping people in need, that is, the so-called 'psychic reward.'

Some people, however, forget that many of us went into this profession for reasons other than money, such as helping people in need, that is, the so-called "psychic reward." And, heaven knows, for many of us primary care docs, the psychic reward has been a significant part of the equation because for years payments/reimbursements have not been where they should be.

Helping others makes us feel good. It's a great stress reducer, and it's the right thing to do as well.

Attending patient funerals is another opportunity to show how much we cared for our patients. We can provide family support, if needed, and the looks of gratitude on the faces of the family members tell me that I'm doing the right thing by being there.

On a happier note, I perform magic for my patients on a daily basis. A magician member of the Academy of Magical Arts, I often use comedy magic to make doctor visits less stressful. Last year, I saw a delightful 78-year-old woman for the first time. After addressing her concerns, I asked her if she'd like to see some magic and performed a card trick. She said, "I've always loved magic. In fact, I used to work for a magician." "Which one?" I asked. "Harry Blackstone Sr.," she replied. "I was the girl he cut in half on stage for three years!" Thinking fast, I performed another trick that involved her participation. Now, I can proudly claim that I shared assistants with the great Harry Blackstone Sr.!

Finally, one other fun thing that I've done on a day off is to invite some seniors for lunch at the restaurant of their choice. In a society that tends to discard things that get old, too often the elderly - and the valuable sacrifices and contributions that they've made - are ignored. I've heard some wonderful stories during these lunches, including from one woman who served as a missionary in Africa!

To recall an important lesson I learned in college: "Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it." Our senior patients harbor a vast wealth of information and experience. Tap into them and you'll find yourself with some extremely rewarding experiences for which there is no ICD code.

Jeffrey K. Pearson, DO, is a family physician in San Marcos, California. Send your feedback to meletters@advanstar.com