What It’s Worth

Sometimes I wonder
if this career
is really worth the cost:
— what (maybe) could have
been a happy marriage
— being a stay-at-home mom
(I don’t want to be
a stay-at-home mom)
— not getting time to pee;
every ten hours a bite
to eat; chronic fatigue
— only taking what I’m
given; never asking
for what I need
— the possibility of never
having a family

But then I remember there’s
a reason I haven’t given up.
I have so much passion
for the people I serve.

Today I got to readjust
a femur! How intimate–to get
to touch someone’s body
to help them get better.

In the operating room,
people trust us to control
their breathing; to keep
their bodies functioning.

When I’m sewing up wounds
I never wonder about
the cost. I only feel
focused and closeness.

I am a human force amidst
IV lines and white coats.
I am resilience and endurance.
I am on the right path.

Notes from the interview that inspired this poem:

This person wanted her poem to be about the resilience, sacrifice, and endurance it took to pursue a medical career. She told me she was engaged when she first began medical school. Eventually, she had to make the hardest decision of her life to call it off. “We had been together for seven years. I already had a wedding dress,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s worth it, to be giving up so much of myself for a career.” She intended to pursue neurosurgery, and told me how others who’ve gone this path have found it impossible to maintain a relationship or have a family. “There is so much burnout, but I also love the operating room. There’s a reason I haven’t given up,” she said. She came alive when she described what it felt like to be entrusted with people’s lives in surgery. She was holding many tensions at the same time, but even so, she said she still knew she was on the right path.

Interviewee: Anonymous, Resident
Listener Poet: Jenny Hegland

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