Finding work and meeting ex-patients


The hardware she helped me select

Then noted a pain in her neck

I derived such enjoyment

At her place of employment

No charge for a three-minute check

Synopsis: I’m a Family Practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. In 2010 I danced back from the brink of burnout, and honoring a 1 year non-compete clause, travelled and worked out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. After three years working with a Community Health Center, I went back to adventures in temporary positions until they have an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) I can get along with. I just got back from a 3 month stint in Nome, Alaska.

I returned from Nome to Sioux City ten days ago; Testing my immediate employability theory, I woke up Monday morning with nothing on my schedule, and tried to have work by Wednesday. My time frame incorrect, in less than a week I had work lined up from the 3rd week in April until the last of September.

I don’t write in detail about these jobs until I sign contracts, sometimes not until I see plane tickets. Five out of 6 jobs fall through. This summer I’ll work Urgent Care in 12 hour shifts, from 3 to 5 days per week. And, if things go according to plan, much of my summer I’ll spend working in Pittsburgh.

I’m also talking with a Canadian recruiter. Most American docs reflexively vilify the Canadian single-payer system but few understand it. I want first-hand experience despite the fact that with one exception, every Canadian physician I’ve met hated their system.

But every day I see former patients.

At the gym, a fit-looking, slim, middle-aged woman came up to me while I sweated on the elliptical. “You saved my life,” she said, “It was eleven years ago I stopped smoking. I fist-bumped with her, genuinely glad she changed her life. Yet I believe that if my patient gets better, 80% of the credit goes to my patient, and 20% to me.

Last week at Sam’s Club, a young man approached me with the good news that he’d stopped drinking soda pop and had started drinking more water. He looked healthy.

Yesterday a former patient reminded me that 25 years ago to the day I ushered her into the world. I had the great good fortune to diagnose pregnancy, do the prenatal care, attend the delivery, and perform the well child exams. She has grown into a strong, competent, attractive young woman with an impressive array of skill sets. An asset to the city, her family, and the health care industry, I feel privileged to have watched the process.

Today at the hardware store, a staffer complained to her co-worker about knots in her neck. (She gave me permission to write this.) “I’m a doctor,” I announced, “and I can make those knots go away.” I sat her on a stool at the back of the store and put my hands onto her shoulders, finding the usual set of painful lumps, starting with the upper inside corner of the left shoulder blade, the cluster of four between the shoulder blades, along with the characteristic tightness along the back of the neck. I used a routine that I developed over the years, progressively massaging the head’s support muscles, finishing with a standing upper back crunch. She thanked me profusely.

At the end, I said, “Making your neck knots go away, that took three minutes and it’s free, but it doesn’t address the whole question of why you’re not sleeping well, which is the root cause of the problem and would take 20 minutes.” She wanted to know where I work, and I had to tell her I’m between jobs.

I didn’t tell her I so enjoy making people feel better that I quit charging for spinal manipulation. But I left my business card, and encouraged her to read my blog.

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One Response to “Finding work and meeting ex-patients”

  1. Itay Seith Says:

    I met you thru Naomi Katz. I’m a disabled chemist returning to school for epidemiology in hopes of helping the community that keep me alive, literally. (I’m HIV+ and never expected to be alive much less able to give back. ) You renew my belief in the character of my youth & my first college days.
    Your current quest is the epitome of my desire. ..give back while/before the confines of reality kick in. [Yes word choice is correct.] I wish i could meet you in person. If I could afford to travel like you do, I’d join you…Yes I can is still my motto. Your sharing really brought be back from the doldrums of study/exam prep/why the heck am i still awake.
    You may never get to know me personally but I do share your enthusiasm/enthusiastic flair.

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