Just A Medic II

Just a Medic

Online, almost anywhere I go, I call myself “Just A Medic” (or “medimikka” where that's taken). And, inevitably, I am asked why “just” and why “medic.”

Truth is, there's a process, a development, behind this statement. One that begins, much like any development does, slowly. I had jobs. I didn't like them, but they made me (much, in some cases) money. I wrote software, I started and owned restaurants, I worked as a bouncer, a lorry driver, and a barroom magician at one point. I was in law enforcement. I tried it all, none of it stuck... except medicine. I liked medicine. It wasn't the most glamorous of jobs (someone told me yesterday, that it's a pity I am not a German Chef... I didn't tell her and said “sorry, just a medic” :)), and it wasn't the best paid one, either. In fact, riding the dot.com wave briefly in late 1999 and early 2000 made me more cash than six years of medicine combined.

But I never had a Monday in medicine. You know, that's the day you don't want to go to work, want to stick around and see what else sleep brings you? That kind of Monday. I never had one. After years doing medicine in one way or another, interrupted at times, I still wake up every morning with that butterfly feeling in my stomach, excited to get going, excited to do medicine, excited to see what the day brings. It's like being freshly in love with someone you know so well, you know they'll make you happy.

So, why “just a medic.” A medic, to me, is someone who heals. Heals in a very specific way. Doctors, nurses, paramedics, combat medics, physiotherapists, psychotherapists, they, we, all do have a choice: do we want to be a medic, do we want to be that person?

To me, “medic” conjures the image of a person clad in the gear you're wearing, ready to brave danger, ready to get to work and drag you into safety, always there with a means to still the wound, ease the pain, and give you comfort and safety.

The medic is a special kind of healer, one we need more of. Not a god. Not a demigod. Not an acerbic ruler or chart reading leader. But someone who understands that our job, as therapists, as nurses, as physicians, as orderlies, as EMT, is that of a buddy, a navigator, a copilot. We're not dictators, we're not warlords in the war against disease, we have no enemies. Instead, we have buddies, the patient near us. We're their second, their advisor, their protector.

We're not fighting against things. We fight for someone — our patients. In the process we, together, them and us, vanquish the dangers that threaten them. They might need us, yes, but this doesn't give us powers, instead it gives us responsibility.

I don't wear ties. Ever. In a clinical setting, ties are attempted bodily harm, as they're both nasty transmission vectors for all kinds of things, and always get in the way. Outside the clinic, I don't do, either. I seek no special status, seek no acknowledgment, and do not want to signal standing. Instead, I carry the tools I need to help if I am needed. More expensive than a tie, rarely seen or used, but in line with my calling, that of a medic.

Medics don't stand behind lecterns when they speak. Ideally, I am next to those I speak to (never “at”), but as much as I can I remove obstacles between me and them. I don't use desks when I am collaborating with a client, desks are dividers, too. A small writing surface next to me is generally enough, the practical part is being satisfied that way.

Medics don't teach. Medics converse. In conversing, they learn as much, if not more, than the person who came to see them. I will never understand my colleagues going to conferences to give a speech and disappearing right at its conclusion, not extending the courtesy of listening to those who listened. No one is educated enough to eschew learning. Which, funnily, is something I observe in the Nobel laureates and other luminaries that come: what sets them apart from the colleague who isn't as well known, is that they generally remain and listen, engage, converse. And that there is little to no hierarchical thinking in their interactions. It's not the demigod in white that will save the world or the patient, it's that Nobel laureate's findings that will.

I follow the first line, attributed to Asclepios, of the Modern Oath: “Sedare dolorem opus divinum est.” — it is a divine work (“highest calling”) to ease the pain. This extends into my life in general. I listen, I try to ease the pain if I can, and I will attempt to cause as little as I manage. It is never exhausting to be there, but as a medic I also offer and withdraw, I leave it to my buddy, my patient, my equal, to accept or reject the offer. I am not all knowing, not omnipotent, so I do not know if I am what someone else needs.

I can heal. That's all I know (ok, I can cook a mean dinner and if you ask nicely I'll show you a few card parlor tricks), and I know how to do well. It won't make me special, doesn't give me permission or leave. Instead, being a medic, a healer, means I want to be with, not above, those around me. I want to be by their side when things go pear shaped, when shit hits the fan, or when fear comes with the darkness.

I don't want to be special. I just want to be ... a medic. And that's why I am Just a Medic.