Posts Tagged ‘Electronic medical record’

Confronting a smoker with a heart attack

January 13, 2019


When it comes to attacks of the heart

Please listen, you docs who are smart

Whenever the bloke

Steps out for a smoke

Don’t yell, and keep your words smart.

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, traveled and worked in out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. I followed 3 years Community Health Center work with a return to traveling and adventures in temporary positions in Alaska, rural Iowa, suburban Pennsylvania, western Nebraska and northern British Columbia. I have returned to Canada now for the 4th time.  Any identifiable patient information has been included with permission.

Though the patient gave me permission to write about him, I won’t say when this incident happened.

He came in with chest pain. As per protocol, I did the electrocardiogram which strongly resembled previous tracings.  But I also asked for and obtained a blood test for troponin, which rises only when heart muscle has sustained damage.  It came back normal.

But we have learned that sometimes the damage doesn’t show up on the initial blood work, so I ordered the same tests 4 hours later.

I read the second ECG with alarm: a sag in the line connecting the wave representing the heart’s contraction, with the deflection of the heart’s electrical preparation for the next beat. I sat down with the patient and discussed the situation.  In the middle of a heart attack, I had to make arrangements for more specialized care.  He would require a cardiologist and a catheterization, perhaps stents or a cardiac bypass graft.

I started the complicated business of sending the patient to a higher level of care while the snow fell hard enough to make the task impossible. I repeated the same story on the phone, each time emphasizing that the patient remained pain-free and with normal blood pressure and pulse.

The snow eased my emotional frustration. No medevac helicopters fly in this health district.  I only ask for fixed-wing transfer when justified by the distance to the facility, and the weather throughout the province assured that the small planes involved in medical transfer could neither take off nor land.  Still, the decision-making came at day’s end.  Vancouver’s cardiologists had no beds, we would have to keep the patient.

As I finished the hospital admit process, the nurse said, “You know, don’t you, that he stepped outside for a smoke.”

No, I hadn’t known. I confess I lost my temper.  I slammed my pen on the desk and stormed out to the front entrance.

I confronted the patient.

Those who have known me the longest will confirm that when I get angry I get articulate, but I rarely raise my voice. I don’t have to.

What I said boiled down to, “You have a beautiful young wife and a son. There are a lot of people who love you, and we’re worried about you.”  But I said it, angrily, about 6 times.

I care about my patients, but I haven’t expressed that kind of fury for years. Maybe I’d worked too many hours with too much noise.  I finished more fatigued, and I felt worse for hours.

The next day the patient thanked me, as did his family. He felt better, the best he’d felt in a year.

Outside, the snow fell thick for the next five days, when, finally, we got word we could transfer.

Talking Canadian Licensure With a Canadian

August 31, 2018

To her home the doc wants to go back

It took time, but she’s facing the fact

She has nought left to prove

So she decided to move

I told her she just needs to pack

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, traveled and worked in out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. I followed 3 years Community Health Center work with a return to traveling and adventures in temporary positions in Alaska, rural Iowa, suburban Pennsylvania and western Nebraska. 2017 brought me adventures in Iowa, Alaska, and northern British Columbia. After a month of part-time in northern Iowa, a new granddaughter, a friend’s funeral, a British Columbia reprise, and my 50th High School reunion, I’m back in Northwest Iowa.  Any identifiable patient information has been included with permission

I had a good long phone conversation with a Canadian national, a physician working in the States considering going back home, for a lot of reasons.

Right now she attends patients in a high-crime area with brutal heat and humidity, in the sunniest part of the sun belt. She loves teaching, and she loves medicine.

She talked about her aging parents in Ontario. She asked me about scope of practice and professional climate for docs seeking licensure in Canada.  And how to go about the process.

Honesty seized me. I couldn’t talk about her specialty or academic medicine at all. I could barely talk about big city medicine.  I told her how much I loved my spot in northern British Columbia and what huge hassles I’ve been through to work in Canada.

I couldn’t tell her what difficulties she’ll find getting licensure in Ontario, because Ontario is not British Columbia. After all, my Alaska license came easily, my Pennsylvania license did not.   She will not face the 5 months of ricocheting emails caused by hard-to-read signatures on 35-old-residency certificates, nor another 5 months of frustration caused by accidents of history in the development of Family Practice training.

She probably won’t face a 7-month dead-end with a private recruiter.

She won’t need a work permit because she’s Canadian, and she probably won’t need a physical.

We swapped bits of our backstories. I talked about how my curiosity got me north of the border to start with, but how the practice climate keeps me coming back.

We talked about how the insurance industry and government (under the guise of Medicare) used the Electronic Medical Record systems to steal the joy from medicine. We face rapidly expanding nets of regulations that demand more work but do nothing for patient care.

In the end, we agreed that we love the work despite the administrative hijacking.

When I hear American physicians whine, I tell them they can move, quit, go to Direct Patient Care (where the doc gets paid out of the patient’s pocket), keep whining, or just lay back and take it.

The Canadian internist arrived at the same narrow list of choices, and decided to move back home.

Another last week

October 5, 2014

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.