Posts Tagged ‘schedule’

Highlights of six weeks in Barrow

March 1, 2011

You might say it flew far like a sparrow

Or fast and straight like an arrow.

     But either way time

     Like a vacation sublime

Went fast while we were in Barrow

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  Avoiding burnout, I’m taking a sabbatical while my one-year non-compete clause winds down, having adventures, visiting family and friends, and working in out-of-the-way places.  Currently I just finished an assignment at the hospital in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost point in the United States, and I’m in Anchorage for two days.

Six weeks in Barrow, Alaska, has flown by.  We arrived at the end of the two-month Arctic night.  We went out in -75 degree F temperatures, and we stayed inside while the worst blizzard in four years raged outside.


Blizzard in Barrow

I worked 360 hours while here, but the other doctors worked more hours than I did.  I received the lightest load on the call schedule.  I didn’t work any nights.

I saw a lot of broken ankles, from snow machine accidents and falls on the ice.  I picked up two cases of vitamin B12 deficiency, nine cases of vitamin D deficiency, two cases of hypothyroidism, and not one case of frostbite. 

I took care of people from all over Alaska, including Barrow.  I also saw those from Tonga, the Philippines, Hawaii, Korea, California, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico, Florida, England, South Africa, Colombia, and Ireland.

I met people who had survived plane crashes and gunshot wounds.  I made personal acquaintance with more than a dozen whaling captains, and more than two dozen who had personally killed whales.

A lot of the men had taken polar bears, most at close range with low-powered rifles, many in self-defense.  One had killed a polar bear without a firearm at all.  

I talked to women who sew the seal skins onto umiak frames, and the men who hunted the seals.

When a white-out shut the town down for four days, I suited up and went outside.  Twenty paces from the building I thought better of the venture and turned back.

I didn't have to go out in a blizzard to ice up.

We watched the first dawn after sixty-three days of darkness on the afternoon of January 24, and watched it set less than two hours later.

First sunset and first sunrise in 63 days, at the point. January 23 2011

The medical community viewed the Superbowl in the Commons room, farther north than any other medical staff activity in the country.

I talked to other hunters who shot caribou, wolf, goose, duck, wolverine, seal, and walrus.  Several people had been hunted by polar bears, but lived.

We saw the Northern Lights, I for the first time and Bethany for the second.

We attended Kiviuk, the Messenger Feast that happens every two years.  I saw dancers passionately portray heroic stories with their dances.

Afterwards, while the Northern Lights swept mutely across the sky, we watched the best fireworks display I’ve seen.

While we were here we saw pressure ridges form in the ice on the Arctic Ocean.

For every active drunk I took care of I met two in recovery.

Bethany taught sign, Inupiak, Special Ed, third grade and fifth grade.  She made a lot of new friends, one of whom she started into knitting.  She got a lot of exercise.

I drove twice, a total of less than fifteen miles.

We had the best Kung Pao chicken and Mongolian beef we’ve ever had.

Both of us lost a few pounds.


Most weeks don’t have three sundays

May 25, 2010

Let me tell you about the week’s game

No two days are the same

Monday brings stress,

And Friday’s a mess,

With the worried, the well and the maimed

For a long time, my weeks fell into a rhythm. Monday mornings brought stacks of paper work, with lab and x-ray results, in addition to reviewing documents about what had happened in the ER and hospital over the weekend. Monday afternoons predictably brought chaos; people who had been sick on Saturday and Sunday wanted to see their doctor, and really didn’t want to wait till Thursday. After work Bethany and I would spend half an hour at a nursing home, and after that I went to the gym.

Tues was calmer. The drug rep brought breakfast rather than lunch. The noon hour became the noon hour and a half so that the docs could meet, making the afternoon thirty minutes half an hour shorter. The flood of paperwork from Monday had slowed to a trickle. I exercised on my way home.

Wednesday I took call, and the pace quickened. In our group the doc on call takes care of the phone messages for the docs who have the afternoon off or who go on vacation. For years there I had hospital work to do on the way home and phone calls through the night, and I missed my gym session. Vigilance murdered my sleep.

For the last year and a half I took Thursday off. I started early with a radio show about 6:45. Once a month I would have a Credentials Committee meeting at the hospital at 7:00 and once a month I would have Quality Assurance meeting at the nearby nursing home. During hunting season I would take to the field for the afternoon. Outside of hunting season my agenda included cycling, target archery, a trip to the bank, and a stop at the Mexican grocery store.  After I came home I’d log onto the office computer and take care of messages, lab, x-ray and scanned documents.

After a reasonable Friday morning, Friday afternoon brought more chaos: people getting sick and didn’t want to face the weekend with an illness, and really needed treatment. The afternoon usually went long and when I arrived home I had documentation to complete. (For a very long time I brought home a microcassette recorder and a milk crate full of charts. When we made our records electronic, homework got much easier.

I did my best to take Saturday off completely and not do anything productive; unless I had call I didn’t turn my computer on at all. I usually awakened Saturday morning late (frequently after 7:00) and well rested. Which didn’t keep me from napping on Saturday afternoon.

Sunday, in season, I went hunting early before teaching Sunday School, and again afterwards. For most months, though, I exercised early, and Bethany and I would go to the movies in the afternoon. No two days in a row the same, I never had a boring day but Mondays and Fridays carried more stress. Today, Tuesday, my second real day of unemployment, has me feeling deliciously like I’m on my third Sunday in a row.  Bethany’s birthday, we gardened for 4 hours in the morning, planting tomatoes, chiles, and cucumbers. We did a matinée movie, a very nice dinner out, and another movie in the evening (we now both qualify as Seniors).

What a fabulous day. Bethany calls it pure decadence.