Before embarking on my soon-to-end career, I took a course called “Labor in Literature and the Arts”. For that course I wrote a series of poems about work (including delivering newspapers, selling concessions at football games, driving cab, plumbing). After several years working in healthcare, I realized I had not yet written about that endeavor. I decided to do something about it.
Fast forward a dozen years. I was looking for some old photos on a seldom-used hard drive. I came across some poems about health care that I’d forgotten about. I’ll reprint some here so that you can forget about them, too.
Surgery is better than medicine.
That’s why surgeons get paid more than physicians.
If I give you a medication,
You have to keep taking it.
But if I cut something out of you,
It’s gone forever.
But then maybe you’ll have to take
I used to be a plumber.
I could be a vascular surgeon.
It’s the same work,
But it pays better.
It’s usually cleaner
And doesn’t smell as much,
But that’s not always true.
I can use a snake to clear a clog
But in your arteries we give it a different name.
I can replace your pipes
And if I were a surgeon I wouldn’t even have to
Know how to solder.
I used to be carpenter
But now I’m an orthopedic surgeon.
The tools are pretty much the same
But smaller and prettier.
I love stainless steel and titanium.
The work is still the same
But I get more respect.
I get paid ten times as much
And no one complains about the bill –
Not to me, anyway;
No one wonders if I’m worth that much.
No one complains about the materials cost
And asks me if I could use something cheaper.
No one tells me they can get a hip for less at Menard’s
And asks me if I can install that one and only charge for labor.
There is a poem waiting to be written
But I don’t know how to write it.
I’ve been in this hospital for ten years.
There are stories to tell
But I still don’t know how to tell them.
You come in with a medical history written in code.
CAD, DM II, CHF, ESRD on HD.
The we ask you what’s wrong
And make a diagnosis.
Diagnosis means telling you what you just told me,
but saying it in Greek and Latin.
Just because I can recite your symptoms in another language
I get paid in 6 figures.
Well, not me
But someone like me.
We still don’t know how to fix it.
We can give you some drugs.
They’ll make some of the symptoms better
But only as long as you keep taking them.
The drugs will cause some other symptoms
But we have a drug for that.
We don’t use the word “drug”.
That’s how you know I’m not really a doctor.
If I were a doctor I would have said
Drugs are what you take.
Medications are what we give you.