August Update, one month late

Hmong Farmer
Hmong Farmer/Olympus XA/Kodak Tri-X/Sapa/Vietnam

Saigon Life

Saigon Life/Nikon FE2/Kodak Tri-x/Saigon/Vietnam

Samui Fisherman

Samui Fisherman/Olympus XA/Kodak Tri-x/Koh Samui/Thailand

Marooned Boat in Halong Bay

Marooned Boat in Halong Bay/Nikon FE2/Kodak Tri-X/Ha Long Bay/Vietnam

My father was recently admitted to the hospital. I had just finished morning rounds and finally, after hours of discussing patients and formulating plans for the day, had a moment to use the bathroom. These bathroom breaks have become somewhat of a sacred moment, where I can gather my thoughts, take a deep breath, and most importantly empty my bladder. As soon as I entered the restroom, I get a phone call. Expecting a wrong number, I casually greet the caller and after confirming my identity the man tells me that my father has been in a bicycle accident. He was found unconscious in the of the road. Ambulance just arrived. My father heading to the hospital now.

 My blood ran cold. Everything stopped. My father, my best friend was hurt and I had no idea how bad or what happened. I was several states away just starting my day shift. I felt powerless. My medical training meant nothing in those moments as all I could do was tell the person looking at my father thank you for calling and hang up.

After many phone calls and phone tag I finally was able to rally my father’s closest friends to head to the emergency room at the hospital to give my father some company. After five years of medical training, all I knew to do was get people that cared about my father by his side. After all my efforts, I knew at least two people were headed to the hospital to take care of my father. I went back to work. I took care of my patients and as soon as I got out of the hospital I called my father.

He was hit by a deer. While bicycling through the outskirts of Nashville, a deer ran into him. My father flew from his bike and broke five bones: his right scapula, right clavicle, and 3 ribs. If he had not been wearing a helmet he would be dead. But, he is alive. Expected  to make a full recovery. Just a month of immobilization and slow physical therapy to bring him back to full strength.

My father’s freak accident served as an important and humbling reminder. Only two months into my residency and patients are becoming just names on the computer that require a sequence of clicks and notes typed to take care of them. That isn’t what medicine should be. These patients are people with families, friends, and loved ones who are just as stressed as I was when I heard the news about my father.

It’s hard though, as the more time I actually spend with my patients the less “work” I am actually doing. To get things done, I need to click, type, and sit at my computer and save my patients one progress note at a time. The brief moments I spend rounding on my patients is not enough, but if I am not working behind a computer all my patients suffer as nothing will get done. It’s the catch 22 of modern medicine and the electronic medical record because I DO CARE about my patients, but I can’t see them. I can’t get to know them beyond the initial HPI interview and the brief moments that encapsulate my morning rounds otherwise I will never be able to make it home.

My father though, taught me just how important it is that I take that extra few minutes to talk to my patients and get to know them better. To humanize them so that they don’t feel like they are on a conveyor belt in and out of the hospital as fast as possible. Which I think happens when 95% of residents’ days are spent typing and clicking and making phone calls, and typing some more. The patients behind the medical record can be lost. I understand why though; I am so busy trying to tread water. Order the correct medications, realize I ordered the wrong medication, reorder the medication, d, realize I calculated the incorrect doses, double check myself, triple check myself, and generally try to not kill my patients with my new doctoral powers. I just haven’t had the time to get to know my patients like I want to.

Despite it all, I won’t let my idealism die. As I’ve learned the system I’ve been able to spend more time with my patients and I know I will make a point of it to spend more time with my patients so that I can get to know them as more than just their chief complaint.

Residency is a process, and while I’ve had my trials and tribulation, I do feel that I am getting better at my job day by day. I love my job, so much more than words can depict. I am looking forward to tomorrow.

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One thought on “August Update, one month late

  1. Hunter,

    I am sorry to hear about your father’s accident. The same thing happened to a very dear friend of mine almost a year ago. Your writing of this was superb and touched some very deep spots for me. So meaningful and timely.
    Jim Williams

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