Don’t you just love the smell of no kids in the house? They went back to school in a flurry and now there is a moment to sit in a recliner and…sit. Although the quiet is nice, there is something terrifying about the whole putting my kids in the hands of the educational system. Last year, the school lost my five year old. That’s right, you heard me. LOST her. She was supposed to be attending a solar cars class after school. I know, cool. It was the last session and I asked her older sister to go with to make sure she didn’t get lost. Even with that precaution in place, the teacher did not take any action when my older daughter brought my missing child to his attention. Meanwhile, my little peanut was put on a bus and sent home. No one was there to pick her up from the bus stop, no one was in the house. Complete panic ensued and she started wandering the alley of a large metropolitan neighborhood. Luckily, we know our neighbors and they were able to calm the sobbing, lost child until the nanny arrived.
Twenty minutes. That’s how long she was alone. I start to shudder when I think of all the bad things that could have happened. This isolated event made me question if I would ever be able to willingly let them grow up. How do we send our children out into this world of possibilities, both good and bad? How do we let them make their own choices? How do we let them fail?
One outcome of these questions is to be a complete control freak. This need for control can seep into other areas of our lives. When you step away from parenting and enter the clinical world, what is your style of medicine? I think as PAs we may have a tendency to lean in the “freak” direction. We like things to have good outcomes. We like to help. We like to control all the variables so that our patients have the best shot at recovering or even maintaining. At some point along the way, we realize how little control we have and how much of a patient’s health is dependent upon their choices. This burns a little because we want so much to make a lasting change in people’s lives. But sometimes, no matter how well managed they are from a medical standpoint, patients won’t get better. This isn’t necessarily because we did anything wrong, but due to a multitude of things that were outside of our control, or even the patient’s control. This world isn’t perfect and doing everything right doesn’t mean everything will get better.
There may be a small part of us that wants good patient outcomes to reflect upon our stellar capabilities as clinicians. Maybe just a little recognition hungry? Not anything huge, just a brunch in our honor or a front page piece in the local newspaper. I think we do the same thing with our kids. When our high-schooler does well on the ACTs do we secretly believe that it is our accomplishment? On the other end, there is a tiny part of us that believes when Timmy bites Becky at preschool, it is because of our bad parenting. Or when our 5th grader cheats on a test, it’s because we didn’t do a good enough job teaching them to be honest, or when our college kid drops out and starts using drugs it’s because we didn’t talk to them soon enough about substance abuse.
There is a point in which we need to separate ourselves from other people’s choices. We give our patients and our kids the best tools we can. What they choose to do with the tools is not up to us. We protect our kids, we advise our patients, but the choices they make are not a direct reflection on who we are as people. We can do everything in our power to help those who are in our professional or personal lives. At some point we need to let go of the control that never really belonged to us in the first place.