Come to think about it, a few aren't even close to human! :P
No matter what their guise, doctors all find our way to the field of medicine in various inimitable ways. Shockingly quite a number are born wailing and kicking into the world with stethoscope clenched stubbornly in their gaumless jaws, practically weaned on the milk of medical journals, syringes and needles. Then there are the hereditary few who are led unthinkingly like sheep by their shepherds to the field - though a few do kick up quite a rumpus before settling down to the work.
And then there are the (un)lucky few like me who find themselves stumbling clumsily onto the field of medicine, staying to graze awhile and finding it quite a good patch of grass after all.
Maybe that's the reason why I've always been a tad different from the rest. Since I find myself getting quite a few innocent remarks such as the one I had today in the outpatient clinic.
Patient : Wah, doctor. You're so nice. So different from other doctors.
Paul : Really? How so?
Patient : Never expect doctor so funny lah. Usually serious mah.
Paul : Dullards the lot of them.
Patient : Huh?
Not that I'm gonna go around advocating laughter is the best medicine like Patch Addams - but I don't see how it could hurt! :)
Despite doctors coming in all shapes and sizes ( and temperament ) it's obvious that society generally expects doctors to act in a certain manner. Even with the passionate interns of Grey's Anatomy running hog-wild all over Seattle Grace, the age-old stereotype still remains of the aged, knowing physician of yore running his learned arthritic fingers through his white beard while mumbling medical jargon before coming to a formulated diagnosis, all done with utter seriousness and without a hint of a smile.
But the stereotype persists. And many of my colleagues start copying that much revered image so it's not surprising to find patients wondering why we all usually look hot, harried and humourless.
Is it so hard to understand? Apart from the horrific ( though generally improving ) work conditions which turns us into mindless zombies, it's not difficult to see how doctors have come to embody such chilly, unfeeling reserve. Not only are the things we do practically unimaginable in any other field apart from butchery ( we hack, we chop, we saw, we slice - and these are fellow human beings, mind you! ), half the time we're also expected to deliver devastating, grievous news that would potentially change a patient or the family's life forever - and I doubt cracking a joke would make it any easier to take. Certainly wouldn't do to tell a dying man an inappropriate knock knock joke that I doubt he'd be able to appreciate.
Of course there are times when it's alright to relax and converse normally but continually changing temperament in front of the patients isn't easy to do ( not all of us are King of Masks ) so most of us prefer to wear an austere, solemn mien as a mask at work. Makes it so much easier to deal with the more horrific aspects of work sometimes. Hence the image of the unsmiling staid doctor.
But that's only temporary. Just catch us later in the pantry and you'll find some of us can be quite as crazy as everyone else.
Except the engineers. Engineers are a serious lot. :P