May 28, 2024

Following my path: A reflection for Critical Care Awareness Month

By Hesham Hassaballa, MD, FCCP, FAASM | Associate Regional Medical Director – Critical Care

May is Critical Care Recognition and Awareness Month. It’s dedicated to taking time to appreciate and recognize the field of critical care and its clinicians who take care of patients no one else can. I am blessed and truly grateful to be an intensivist, and this time of year sparks reflections on how I came to the profession. 

Getting a residency is one of the most exciting days in a young doctor’s life. After years of training, most have decided their path toward a desired specialty. For me, I always thought I knew the path I wanted would lead me to be a pulmonary and critical care (pulm/crit) doctor.

When Match Day arrived, however, I was sick to my stomach. At the last minute, one of my attending doctors persuaded me to apply for a surgical residency — one I thought he’d surely rank me to match. After submitting my rank order list, I realized I did not want to be a surgeon, but it was too late. When my letter arrived, I opened it with bated breath. I read “Rush Internal Medicine,” and I was ecstatic. Pulm/crit, here I come. 

I fell in love with the ICU as soon as I walked in. It’s the place in the hospital where the sickest of the sick go for care. It’s a fast-paced and exciting environment where you can watch pathophysiology evolve before your eyes in a matter of minutes. Even the beeps and dings of the monitors brought me comfort. I knew this place was my professional home

As a pulmonologist, my only concern is the lungs. As an intensivist, I approach care holistically with every patient I see. To care for my patients, I need to understand every organ system and how each functions and interacts with one another. I not only have to know about the lungs but also the heart, brain, blood vessels, gut, skin, and nerves, just to name a few.  

In addition, being an intensivist has even allowed me to perform some surgical procedures. While surgery was not the path I took, there is still a small surgeon inside of me that is fulfilled whenever I get the chance to deliver surgical care.   

When I can help people conquer critical illness, and they survive, the feeling I get is indescribable. On the other hand, if it is clear that my patient will not survive, my role is to help mitigate their suffering and allow them to die with the dignity they deserve, all the while helping their loved ones deal with the pain and grief of their loss. No other field affords me this range of opportunities.     

It is always nice to be appreciated for the work you do. As a healthcare leader, I try to express my gratitude to my team every chance I get. And so, during this Critical Care Awareness Month, from one critical care clinician to another, I say thank you for all you do for critically ill patients.  

Subscribe to the Sound Physicians Blog

A trusted source for today's healthcare needs.