Open Letter to a Patient

Posted on February 14, 2018

By Dr. Casey Chan

It is 2 a.m. You have been feeling unwell the whole day. Finally, your name is called.

Anxious, you step into the busy emergency room – the lights, the beeping, the noises, the hustle and bustle. What’s the doctor going to say? Who is it going to be? Is he or she going to be nice?

Minutes later, a person in a white coat finally comes in and greets you with a smile. You can’t help but notice how young this person is. For the next half an hour, the doctor asks detailed questions about your health, does a thorough physical examination. The doctor disappears to check on some blood work and for the next little while, you can’t help but think, “Gosh, is this person old enough to be a doctor? I mean, I sure hope he or she is qualified. Do they really have the knowledge and skills to find out what’s going on with my health? And what was that thing the doctor mentioned about again…being a resident or something?”

I am a resident physician and this is my story. My 1,700 other colleagues and I are probably the first physicians you will encounter in an acute care facility almost everywhere in Alberta, 24/7, 365 days a week.

We are doctors, but also learners. We have completed at least seven years of training, including medical school, but are continuing for another two to seven years to finish over 55 different specialty training programs in our chosen expertise, ranging from Family Medicine to Surgery. And although you may not see it, a lot of us also work around the clock to provide care for you behind the scenes – reading your CT scans in the Radiology department and interpreting your specialized blood work and tissue samples in Pathology. Working alongside our attending physicians, we strive to provide the best care possible.

Outside of the hospitals and clinics, we also teach and mentor medical students. We advocate for health care policy change and conduct research to further improve the quality of care for you today, as well as for years to come.

Understandably, you may be nervous. Having questions when being treated by a young clinician is totally natural. Trust me, I look at myself in the mirror every single day and ask myself the same exact questions. I am sure all my colleagues do this sort of reflection too.

We do this because we care. As physicians, we want to provide the best patient care possible. As teachers, we want to be excellent role models to our medical student colleagues. As scholars, we are always looking to see if we can further advance your care based on the latest medical evidence.

At the end of the day, we are striving to become the best doctors possible for Albertans – both as learners today, but as fully qualified physicians for years to come.

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Dr. Casey Chan is a PGY 2 in Internal Medicine.

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