Defining Success through Gratitude
Next Generation is a Brigham Clinical & Research News column penned by students, residents, fellows and postdocs. If you are a Brigham trainee interested in contributing a column, email us. This month’s column is written by Samantha R. Cothias, MD, who is completing her Internal Medicine internship.
I could barely see through my tear-filled eyes as I gripped the steering wheel of my car in a full parking lot. It had only been two hours since my patient, who I had provided care for over the past week, had an unexpected prognosis and was transitioned to comfort care. It all happened so quickly that I did not have time to fully comprehend what was happening. But I consider myself a professional and I moved through as I saw fit. When the conversation with the family members occurred, I stood there feeling as though I had failed, but all they kept saying was how grateful they were to have their loved one taken care of. All the while, all I could see was my patient’s significant other’s face. Their partner looked so tired and so relieved, as though a battle has been won. It occurred to me that the only person in the room who felt as if all was lost was myself. Although the families had pain in their hearts and their voices were trembling, they spoke of how grateful they felt and how well their loved one was cared for. It was these moments that made me realize the importance of our work as health care professionals.
I started my journey into medicine believing that I would cure the world of diseases. That no family would lose someone because of a disease. To eight-year-old me, I thought my job would be to discover the cure to all. As the years go by, I am slowly realizing that there is much more to making your patient happy. Every day I look at charts, prescribe medications and place orders. But beyond that, my medical education at the Brigham has encouraged me to take a seat, hold a hand, do research and take the time to listen and reflect. The Brigham has selected individuals to join our faculty and staff based on how big their hearts are. How kind they can be and how they strive for selflessness. Each team I have been a part of has encompassed individuals—from the nurses, to the senior residents, to attendings and interns—who stand to show kindness to all.
Being a health care professional carries successes and failures that no amount of education can prepare you for. I don’t often relay gratitude for the experiences that have forced me out of my comfort zone. But this is exactly what comes to mind when I think about what I am most grateful for as my intern year unfolds. Being part of Brigham and Women’s Hospital has taught me that our education runs on more than publications and fame. It is the opportunity we have to be a part of our patients’ lives. The encouragement to go above and beyond, whether it’s sitting down for an extra minute to talk to our patients, or to go to afternoon report where the personal accounts of individuals dealing with terminal illnesses are presented. To understand that our definition of success is only true if at the end someone can say, “Thank you.” And for that, I am grateful.