Another last week


Quite early to work I did sneak
To start when no one would speak
I will sing and I’ll praise
These last final days
And be done at the end of the week

Synopsis: I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. I danced back from the brink of burnout in 2010, and, honoring a one-year non-compete clause, went for adventures working in out-of-the-way locations. After jobs in Alaska, New Zealand, Iowa, and Nebraska, I returned home and took a part-time position with a Community Health Center. I did two short assignments in Petersburg, Alaska. On Sept 2, I turned in my 30 days’ notice.
My last week with the Community Health Center started with a really fantastic Monday. Away from the clinic for ten days for a hunting vacation, I looked forward to patient contact, but dreaded the crunch that comes from being away. So I arrived an hour early, and attacked the 35 items that had accumulated on my electronic desk top, mostly expected normal lab and x-ray.
Three thyroid items came unexpectedly normal, a welcome set of results for a family with no resources and no insurance.
Four items had to do with one of my buprenorphine patients. I had to get a special license to be able to prescribe this narcotic to narcotics addicts, and this particular patient had done well with counselling and meetings for 7 months. Despite warnings to the contrary, the quartet of ER documents confirmed that the patient took an off-the-street benzodiazepine (the drug class that includes Xanax, Valium, Librium, alprazolam, lorazepam and diazepam) and lost the will to breathe, which in this case necessitated CPR and an ICU admission.
Two of my other buprenorphine patients came; they have done well with the medication and watching them maintain jobs and families encourages me. That medication, however, like any other in my profession, lacks 100% efficacy. In fact, if I hit 20% with this particular disease state I count myself lucky. No drug does any better. I had to arrange for subsequent care for both.
No-shows kept my patient flow well within reasonable limits; I kept up with my documentation along with the steady influx of results and reports that have to be personally reviewed by the doctor. Also the numerous emails that accompany the end of employment.
I flew down the stairs to Human Resources to sign papers and learn about my benefits. I spent most of my exit interview talking about the stuff I love about my job.
Then I enjoyed a rare luxury: lunch. I ate my sandwich, smoked salmon salad with fresh basil lovingly prepared by my wife. For twenty minutes I savored the goodness without trying to work at the same time.
One of my schizophrenic patients came in for the monthly Haldol injection, and expressed sadness that I’d be leaving; we share an interest in history and frequently we surprise each other with our details. Well children alternated with diabetics, depressives, and hypertensives, and the afternoon slipped into evening.
And just when I started to wallow in how reasonably the day had gone, to barely start to wonder about my decision to leave, the computer froze, and I remembered why I turned in my 30 day notice 27 days before. I fumed. I muttered bad Navajo words under my breath. I had fantasies of throwing my computer out the window.
I left the office before 800PM to go to the gym, with only 5 documents left undone.

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