Slowing down: fifty-four, not seventy-two


Here’s a fact that I’ve found

This one I’m sure will astound

     It’s just fifty-four

     Hours, no more

But really, I am slowing down

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  On sabbatical to avoid burnout, while my non-compete clause ticks away I’m having adventures, visiting family and friends, and working in out-of-the-way places.  On assignment on the North Island of New Zealand, I’m living in an apartment attached to a clinic in Matakana, north of Auckland.

ANZAC day commemorates the Australia-New Zealand Army Corps losses, first in WWI and then in later wars. It’s not my holiday because I’m not a Kiwi, and I volunteered to work the clinic today. This year the coincidence with the Easter weekend gave the country a four consecutive days off.  I tacked my fourteen hours today onto the fourteen I did on Good Friday and the twenty-four I worked the day after.  I worked at a reasonable pace, and got at least one break a day; today I took a morning and afternoon tea break and went out for both lunch and supper.

Yesterday evening I stopped being able to stay awake at 8:00 PM and went to bed; I slept soundly till 4:30.  Breakfast followed shower.  Without the anticipated traffic I arrived twenty-five minutes early.

Holiday business continued; as of 6:00PM I’ve seen twenty patients and done (or not done) phone prescriptions for 4 more.

‘Two patients have studies pending which I hope prove me wrong.

I looked at one patient whose dermatologic problem has failed to clear for nine years, and instantly disagreed with the previous diagnosis, in part because of inadequate response to medication.  I prescribed a skin creme, handed over my card, and requested a post or email if a cure resulted.

I treated six patients non-pharmacologically. 

I lost track of the number I told to quit smoking and drinking.

I made four patients better before they left; I cured one.

I did no defensive medicine.

When I went out to eat I walked down Wellsford’s main street in the rain, glad of my duck-hunting jacket and my cap.  I heard a couple speaking Spanish outside a cafe; I threw six words into their conversation and made them smile.  I wanted to stop and chat, to find out where they were from, and the forces that had acted on them to be here in this place at this time, but I walked on so I wouldn’t breathe their cigarette smoke.

They had left  by the time I returned; the nurse departed at eight and I spent the next two hours on-line researching my next placement.  When I turned out the lights and set the alarm at ten, I had worked fifty-two hours, twenty less than I usually work on Easter weekend. 

Pouring rain lengthened the drive home by twenty percent.  With light traffic, I fought the urge to break the speed limit along the straightaways.  I arrived in Matakana, the town was dark and quiet, and, like me, tired from the long weekend.

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