In some ways, though, my job gets harder as I age. Yesterday was a very busy day, and there was one particular baby who was very sick and took a lot of attention. There were nearly constant concerns about him: Does he need more fluids, different antibiotics, blood, platelets? It was true critical care medicine. I enjoyed it, but when I got home I was mentally exhausted, seemingly more so than I would have been earlier in my career, although maybe I just don't remember how tired I used to get.
I've never been one to think that doctors' jobs are more stressful than those of other people. Even though we deal with health and sickness, sometimes life and death, we're trained for it, and besides, there can be significant stress in other jobs. Many people have to finish projects or reports by deadlines, or are judged harshly if they don't do their job properly, have to deal with challenging people all day, or simply have to deal with mind numbing boredom day in and day out.
Lately, though, I've been wondering if maybe my job is on the more stressful end of the spectrum. This past weekend I visited my daughter's college, and while there we went to an office of a music professor. His office included two large CD storage towers, a stereo, a Mac computer, and - get this - a large pipe organ. (Is there no justice? I've been trying unsuccessfully for a couple years to get a new combination radiant warmer/incubator that costs $30,000, while this music prof has a pipe organ worth several hundred thousand dollars.) Anyway, I thought, what a nice job he must have, and how little stress there must be. He can listen to music all day, maybe make a few tests, and teach some music lessons. Sure, at one time he probably had to attain tenure, but is that so big a deal in a small college music department?
It's not only what he has to do for his job, but also what he doesn't have to do, namely, he doesn't have to worry about getting a sick baby's oxygen level up when you've already tried everything you can think of, or deal with parents angry because their baby can't go home. There are times when his life looks pretty good, and I can't help but wonder how I'd like it.
I'll never know.