The Things That Did Not Happen

At the end of today, I hand over my pager to my ward’s brand shiny new F1.

It doesn’t seem like twelve months since I was one of them. It’s not really believable that, on Wednesday, someone, halfway across the country in a hospital that I don’t know very well, is going to expect me to be the SHO. It’s been a hell of a year.

On the door of the doctors’ office in my medical receiving unit hangs a quote from Don Berwick, the former president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, speaking at the end of the Five Million Lives Campaign, a campaign that aimed to prevent five million incidents of morbidity and mortality, not through heroics, not through blue flashing lights and arrest calls, but through basic medical interventions that stop the bad things in their tracks before they really get started.

It’s cheesy. It’s saccharine. It’s perfectly, profoundly true.

To all of the new baby doctors, this one’s for you:

The names of the patients whose lives we save can never be known. Our contribution will be what did not happen to them. And, though they are unknown, we will know that mothers and fathers are at graduations and weddings they would have missed, and that grandchildren will know grandparents they might never have known, and holidays will be taken and work completed and books read and symphonies heard and gardens tended that, without our work, would never have been.

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