The morning went just a bit slow
And I left with an hour to go
But with the time I had freed
I got in some read
And enlarged the stuff that I know
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. 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) system I can get along with. Assignments in Nome, Alaska, rural Iowa, and suburban Pennsylvania stretched into fall 2015. Since last winter I’ve worked in Alaska and western Nebraska, and taken time to deal with my wife’s (benign) brain tumor. After a moose hunt in Canada, and short jobs in western Iowa and Alaska, I am working in Clarinda, Iowa. Any identifiable patient information has been included with permission.
Last night Bethany and I had the chance to tell my story to a housemate. Coming up to my 60th birthday I knew if I didn’t slow down I’d burn out. But I had a one-year, 30 mile non-compete clause. That’s when I went to Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost place in the US.
Bethany recounted the time I called her to say that I had put in 63 hours that week, but I had time for the gym, playing my sax, participating in a jazz group, recreational reading and writing, socializing and watching TV. I initially attributed the extra time to commute reduction and other factors inherent in living in a small community, but then I applied the same criteria to what I’d been doing in private practice and came up with a conservative estimate of 84 hours a week, not counting obstetrics work.
Nowadays, any work week shorter than 60 hours feels like vacation. And when I walk into the clinic on Mondays, my steps bounce and I grin because I love the work.
I love it passionately up to about 50 hours, and after that my enjoyment starts to decay.
And I think my patients can tell when I get excited about a diagnosis. And when the patient makes my day, I tell them so.
Since I got here I’ve been able to radically help about a dozen patients with either Parkinson’s (involving tremor and stiffness) or PMR, polymyalgia rheumatic (an inflammation of the arteries).
But as influenza season wanes, so does the patient flow. This morning I had no inpatients at all. Of my two scheduled morning patients, the first one showed on time at 9:00 and the second at 9:30.
I used the hours to read up on PMR . It overlaps with giant cell arteritis (GCA) and temporal arteritis (TA). Because it comes in clusters, some authorities think it might be viral, and, indeed, if a biopsy of the temporal artery (which runs from right in front of the ear up into the scalp on the side of the head) shows TA, 3 times out of 4 it has the chickenpox virus in it.
Bethany met me for lunch.
In the afternoon I did some more work on my Canada license. I read up on Parkinson’s disease. I saw 4 patients and finished their documentations. Throughout the clinic, calm and low patient flow prevailed. I got permission to leave at 430PM. Bethany picked me up outside the front entrance, with a stiff March breeze blowing. She took one look at me. “Feel like you’re playing hookey?” she asked.
I nodded. I had only worked 9 hours.