On Call

On Call by Dr. Shivangi Shankar

Most doctors/nurses and other healthcare providers are always on call. This implies that your holidays are yours only until someone else requires you to give them up. 

This is usually shared. In a good set-up different doctors are on call at different times. So you know that the next few hours will be emergency free for you. And you can breathe- For yourself. 

The Pan(dem)ic by Sukrithi Banthiya

But it’s a pandemic. It’s a public health emergency. Ongoing. People touching their nose in front of you is a preventable disaster. People planning a wedding in your family is a preventable disaster. People wearing a mask wrong is a preventable disaster. Departments not communicating is a preventable disaster. So, you counsel. I mean, you’re a doctor, so you docere. Teach. Every moment. On social media, on phone calls, in person, on duty, off duty. You can choose not to- but if not you then who? 

You remind yourself that you aren’t the only doctor in the world. There are, despite the dearth, thousands. So, you can rest. And you rest and notice how many little things that were not even your job, that were dysfunctional even with your slogging, are coming apart. You think, hey, someone else will pull it together, I’m nobody. And you wait. And they don’t. Some remind you, how great you were at doing this, of the hope you gave them, of how you reminded them that little contributions matter and how it is important to try. You’ve been a realist, always. You know how much everything is messed up. And you know that apathy finds its way easily through burnouts. You’ve been reminding them to try, sharing the load to save the glimmer in their eyes. Now, they remind you, of all that you have done, of all the potential you have. They make you feel needed and important. And you think this should make you feel good but it doesn’t. You don’t want to be needed. You don’t want to be on call. You’d prefer being wanted for a while, but you don’t know how to. And what if they neither need nor want you? What if you stop serving a purpose? 

You sound irrational. They are concerned. They remind you of the rationality you have offered in insane times. They expect better of you. You expect better of yourself. All that you have prided yourself on seems like a chore. People can take care of themselves right? It’s not on you. 

You know that apathy finds its way easily through burnouts. And you wish you didn’t care. 

You know not to knock on locked doors. So you haven’t been fighting a lost battle. You do know how to lever open jammed doors, though. You’ve tried to pass it on. And yet each time, you’re pushing, even though they claim it’s them. You’re still on call. No you’re not fighting a lost cause. And you wonder if losing would help. Maybe then you could rest? 

And you’ve been trying to be hope for so long that you’re not allowed to despair. Your resourcefulness is a commodity that you have no right to hoard. And you know this isn’t true. That you’re mediocre at best. It’s just that not many people are in this business. Do you have a right to your mediocre sincerity? 

You know that apathy finds its way easily through burnouts. And you wish you didn’t care. 

-Dr. Shivangi Shankar
MMCRI, Mysore


About Through the Looking Glass

2020 has been curiouser and curiouser each day. We have had one hell of a ride. No, literally, some of us, especially healthcare workers have been through hell (and hopefully back) this year. Many of us have found hope in the midst of this despair. All of us are definitely different people than we were in the beginning of the year. In this series we look back and we look inwards. We shall doff the masks we’ve been wearing all year, from the safety of our keyboards. Join us as we reflect upon our experiences and selves in 2020!

Through the Looking Glass by Dr Shivangi Shankar

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