Mail the patient in a cardboard box.

The ER doc said with a growl

“Should I cry fish, fair or foul?’

For after the collision

How do I make a decision

About a Boreal Owl?”

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 (EMR) system I can get along with. I spent last winter in Nome, Alaska, followed by assignments in rural Iowa. The summer and fall included a medical conference in Denver, working Urgent Care in suburban Pennsylvania, and Thanksgiving in Virginia. Just finished with 2 months in western Nebraska at the most reasonable job I’ve ever had, I am back in coastal Alaska.  Any specific patient information has been included with permission.


At morning rounds on Monday we gathered to go over the cases from Friday and the weekend. Including the doctors and the representatives from Mental Health, Pharmacy, Nursing, Physical Therapy, and Social Services, I counted 15.

Drama and irony run rampant in those stories, and, as always, drugs and alcohol provided the majority of the good stuff. But the best patient had been brought in after a collision with a car, and still had a pulse, and was eventually identified (with the help of the internet) as a Boreal Owl.  The calls flew back and forth, and the experts agreed that the best course of action included punching holes in a cardboard box and send the owl via mail.  Which is perfectly legal.

I hope HIPAA doesn’t apply to wild animals.

In general I don’t like prescribing controlled substances, and, when I do, I prescribe in small numbers. Though I dislike the benzodiazepines (a family which includes Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Miltown, and Klonipin) the most, I acknowledge they have their uses.  In fact, I would have difficulty caring for inpatient alcohol withdrawal without them.  I find few other uses for them, such as claustrophobia for an MRI or fear of flying, but I in fact found a reason to prescribe 6 pills of one (but I won’t say for what or for whom).

I decided a long time ago that I’m a lousy judge of character. Too many people have fooled me too many times.  So I ask for a urine drug screen on everyone who asks me for a controlled substance, and even a few who don’t.  I find about 50% surprises.

As everywhere, drug seekers come to the facility hoping to get substances with which to get high or to resell. As it turned out today I did a lot of physical exams for people wanting to get into drug or alcohol rehab, and I was able to pick the diagnosis of Health Seeking Behavior.

And today the people wanting to quit tobacco outnumbered the ones who wanted to continue.


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