What’s Up Docs? Article

Gracie Wilcox, MD, MPH, FAAP

Posted June 10, 2024

Why pediatrics?

Every time I open my email I feel bombarded by articles on physician burn-out.

I woke up on a recent Saturday knowing I had a busy morning of hospital rounds, followed by a busy Saturday clinic, after which I’d return to the hospital for more rounds; all of this would be accompanied by seemingly non-stop phone calls from parents, ED physicians and nurses. Hello winter. As I lay in bed anticipating the busy day and weekend ahead, there was a sense of dread, even exhaustion, with thoughts of the work (and documentation of that work) ahead. 

Why pediatrics?

At the end of that busy weekend I stepped back and thought about the experiences I’d had in that short time frame. I saw life at its most beautiful, and its most painful. 

Beautiful: After the morning clinic I arrived back at the hospital just in time to join a mom, dad and their newborn baby being wheeled into their room after a tough delivery that ended up going to c-section. Our hospital is fortunate to have volunteer musicians who come to play for our patients and their families. One of our phenomenal nurses had asked the harpist who was there that day to serenade this newborn with “Happy Birthday”. The privilege of being present for this meaningful and emotional moment for the family was not lost on me. 

Painful: Later that evening I was called back to the hospital to attend to a child who had ingested drugs that belonged to the person who was supposed to be caring for her and looking out for her. 

Why pediatrics?

Each of our workdays bring us encounters that might bring us joy, or leave us raw. If I focus on “all that work that needs to be done” I feel dread. If I focus on the lives I am privileged to be a small part of, I feel energized. At our AAP-CA1 leadership retreat we had a presentation on narrative in medicine and the role it can play in preventing burn-out. Narrative allows us to reflect on and process the stories that our professional encounters bring. I have been trying to use narrative in my own practice to remind myself of the privilege it is to do the work I do.  

Why pediatrics?

Beauty, pain, connection, exhaustion…all in a day’s (and night’s) work.