Another Road Trip 6


At the clinic I saw 43

A regular urgent care spree.

The problems you face

When you work at that pace!

I barely had time to pee.

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 in out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. After three years working with a Community Health Center, I am back having adventures in temporary positions until they have an Electronic Medical Record System (EMR) I can get along with. I spent the winter in Nome, Alaska, and I just finished an assignment in rural Iowa. Right now I’m working in suburban Pennsylvania, combining work with a family visit.

We moved to a new hotel and I started at a new location. I could probably have walked to the clinic faster than I drove; I started 10 minutes early and arrived 5 minutes late.

The glitch from misspelling my first name continued, denying me computers clock in.

The morning started with a rush, five patients between 830 and 9, then slowed to reasonable. I worked steadily, going from a wave of patients to documentation in 30- to 45-minute intervals. I didn’t get a significant break till 11:45 when lunch arrived, the gift of an orthopedic group.

I bolted a vegetarian Mediterranean wrap, walked the 14 steps back to my station, and found a backlog of 2 patients.

The work continued. I caught up on my data entry in fits and starts till mid-afternoon, when an actual break in the action brought an actual break in the patient flow.

A question about TB occupied a good deal of nursing time and energy, with a volley of phone calls.

I got permission from the person involved to write what I said, “Your (diagnosis) will go away, no matter what you do, in less than six weeks, but if you don’t read Beryl Markham’s book, West With the Night, your life will be a poorer place.

I said to more than one patient, “What do you want life to look like for you in 10 years? You can answer that question on your own time, because I’m not a real counsellor. But ask yourself, how does your (alcohol/tobacco) intake help you that way? Multiply the number of packs per day times 365 times 10. And multiply the number of cigarettes per day times 8 minutes. Holy Smokes! (Number of minutes) per day! That’s (number) hours! You could write a novel by the end of the month!”

I caught up with documentation by 5:00 PM, and got back to the break room to eat a chicken chef salad as fast as I could. The rush started an hour later, and I cared for 18 patients between 6:00 and 9:00PM. .

At a such a pace I can care for one problem per patient, and no time exists for counselling or wisdom.

But for the young people who came in with sexual concerns, I said, “Speak freely. I’m 65. If you want someone to judge you, find someone with a gown and a gavel.”

When the last patient had left I started into the 13 records I needed to document. I finished at 9:00 sharp

At the end I walked out into the humid early summer evening, the smell of the eastern woodlands growth run riot heavy in the air.

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