What started as a severe cold morphed into an allergic reaction requiring heavy antihistamines, the kind that interfered with my ability to stay awake, let alone use the full capacity of my brain.  This has resulted in two weeks of nothing.

Who knew two weeks of nothing could remind you what matters.

As a doctoral student I’m in the unique position of having multiple sources of income, but the vast majority are dependent on my ability to produce something.  Whether it’s an article, a presentation, or an IRB protocol companies pay me to take (complex) ideas and put them on paper in a way that makes sense to a given audience.

If I’m not producing, I’m not getting paid.

I don’t get sick time.  I don’t get paid time off.

And punching the clock isn’t an option.  Because, although I can send an email or make a phone call, the minute I ask for more time, there’s the potential that I could be replaced the next time they need something.  Or worse yet, if I submit something that’s subpar, it acts as a legitimate reason for them to pass me up on the next iteration.

And that’s not a risk I can usually take, but this time I had no choice.

I’m reminded of Hillary Clinton’s bout of pneumonia, politics aside, she had the opportunity to take a few days off to recuperate.  And the stability of her personal finances didn’t change as a result of her decision.

In healthcare we often forget about the patients that don’t have that option.  We talk in abstract terms, clumping patients together by the hundreds, thousands, and occasionally millions.  They lose their identity and self worth, becoming numbers on a page instead of patients in an exam room.

The ones working two jobs, without benefits, and barely scraping by are just another statistic.

I got lucky, the few deadlines I had were “flexible”.  But I know that won’t always be case.  Someday I’ll lose out on something because I’m not protected by a salaried position with the kind of benefits most in healthcare take advantage of.

When that day comes I hope my two weeks of nothing left me prepared enough to deal with the consequences.