Christmas call and prepping for a new assignment


I start out this Christmas on call
As I’m trying to make sense of it all
With the unknown I’m flirtin’,
Cause I embrace the uncertain
While I walk the hospital hall.

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, where I worked for 3 years. I left last month because of a troubled relationship with the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system. Now I’m back from a road trip, working a bit with one of the rural docs, and getting ready for another job in Alaska.
It’s Christmas and I have call as I have had since 1979. But, fundamentally, the word carries different meaning now than it did December 2, 2013 when my group limited our inpatient responsibilities to infants and children.
Still, I printed out our hospital census and found the diagnoses of detox, alcoholic encephalopathy, and OD at the top of the list, along with COPD, respiratory failure, dehydration and urinary tract infection. I ignored those patients whom the hospitalists care for and went up to Newborn Nursery; I examined the patient and used all of my Oroomo vocabulary (less than 10 words) talking with the mother.
I read the paper in the doctors’ lounge, and went to the other hospital. I talked with another FP. I listened while she discussed her practice and her children, and then I related my upcoming plans and how I learned to live with uncertainty.
I refuse to believe in my next job until I get my tickets; those arrived two days ago. So, except in the case of bad weather, I leave Iowa on New Year’s Day and arrive in Nome, Alaska the day afterwards. I can recover from jet lag for a couple of days and start orientation about 3 days later.
I read the Wikipedia article on my destination. I follow the blog from a doc who works there.
Yesterday I started putting together my gear; long underwear comes first. I have Arctic-grade overalls, mittens, and parka.
I dug out the aluminum wok I got at a garage sale during med school. It served me well in my 4th year, when I moved 6 times in 6 months. I moved less stuff every time, but that small, light, handy wok survived the odyssey.
Much remains to be purchased and even more assembled.
On this trip I would like to acquire more Inupiaq language than just vocabulary, and I contacted Rosetta Stone about a product they developed 7 years ago.
But throughout the day the tingling of anticipation coursed through my veins, more anticipation than just the holiday season brings. I wonder about the things I’ll see and the people I’ll meet. I enjoy the delicious sense of not knowing. If I knew, I couldn’t have any surprises. And I look forward to them.
After all, I’ve learned to live with uncertainty.

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One Response to “Christmas call and prepping for a new assignment”

  1. Terry Says:

    Alaska again, eh? 😉

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