Dear Dr. Horn,
I am so proud of you! (Your mother is over the moon. Don’t be embarrassed by her stories to friends. She worked hard to get you to this point. Trust me, it won’t stop so just accept it.)
You are finally a pediatrician. Seeing patients on your own. I know it is scary, but a little fear keeps you humble. Your brain is filled with knowledge that you are anxious to share with parents. Don’t lose that enthusiasm. Continue to learn your craft. There will always be new information to process. The most important skill is to realize what you don’t know and always be willing to ask for help. It is easy to do when you are a young physician, harder as you get older. Practice that skill daily. Ask a colleague a question or look up information in a journal, book or, in the future, online. Learn something new about the practice of medicine everyday. Sometimes the lesson will come from a parent or a child you are caring for, or the guy in environmental services who has been working at the hospital for years. Just be sure to listen.
You are not a parent yet. Be careful giving advice about things you haven’t experienced. All your parenting knowledge is second-hand. Don’t be so judgmental. You have not stayed awake all night with a crying child. I know the child seems fine in the office. Trust me, she wasn’t last night and that mom was terrified. I’m sorry, I cannot tell you what it is like to be a pediatrician for families with unlimited resources. That is not the practice I chose. I care for families like the one I grew up in – those with limited resources but lots of love. Remember, you don’t know what it is like to parent in that situation. You only have the child’s point of view. Share that. Helping parents see their child’s point of view is much better than giving parenting advice at this point. Those other skills will come as you learn from parents over the years and when you become a parent yourself. Right now, stick with what you know. And more important – Listen.
Finally, find your gift and continue to refine it. During residency you saw lots of attendings that you admired and you thought your career would follow their path. That will change. Physicians that you didn’t want to follow also motivated you. That’s useful information, but it is more important to do what you enjoy and become excellent at what you are good at rather than work hard to be average in an area that is not your strength. It is okay that you don’t like one-on-one teaching. You will have colleagues who are great at it. You can see patients so they have more time to teach. That’s okay. You much prefer communicating with, educating and supporting parents anyway. You don’t speak “academic-ease.” It doesn’t mean you are less “academic.” Your gift is making the complex plain for families to understand. Find ways big and small to do that. It will bring you a lot of joy in your career because this thing called social media is coming. It will be good. Make time for it.
Congratulations Ivor. You’re a pediatrician. In 15 years, you will be thinking, “I never imagined this is where I would be.” And you will be totally excited about the possibility of things to come.
Ivor Horn, MD, MPH
ABOUT OUR GUEST POST CONTRIBUTOR: Dr. Horn is the mom of two ‘tweens and an NIH-funded researcher in health care communication and child health disparities. She is a contributing writer at MyBrownBaby.com and tweets @drivorhorn.