Sunday, June 24, 2012

Our Profession

I never said I don't get burned out.  So when Zara's mother called on Saturday afternoon, I have to admit that I wasn't in the best of moods.  I strained to remain patient as I listened to the scared voice on the other end of the phone line.  I was tired.  I had already made the forty five minute trip to the hospital twice that morning.  It was the end of a long week, in  along month, nestled in a tiring year.  Come hell or high water, I couldn't imagine getting back in my car.

Zara was not your typical twenty five year old.  Hampered by both real and imagined intestinal problems, it seemed that rarely a weekend went by that I was not on the phone with her mother.  Her provisional diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome was occasionally interrupted by more readily diagnosable pathology such as diverticulitis.

This time, the pain was more severe than usual and nestled in the right lower quadrant.  I directed her mother to take her to the ER and then hung up the phone.  Then I let fly as series of foul mouthed curses.  Luckily my children were in the other room.

A few hours later when I got the call from the emergency room, I was nonplussed.  The cat scan had not been done.  I crabbed at the ER doc, crabbed at the admitting nurse, and crabbed at the CT tech.  It was only after I got off the phone, that I realized how angry I had been over the last few months.

After dinner, I kissed my children good night and mentally prepared for the long drive.  Zara had appendicitis.  An hour later, I walked into her room and greeted her mother.  The poor woman's face clearly showed the fatigue and strain over tending to a sickly child.  She grabbed  my hand and smiled.  The muscles in her brow relaxed, and for a moment she looked years younger.  She spoke to her daughter who was lying in the bed behind her as she looked into my eyes.

Everything will be OK, Dr. Grumet is here.

Instantaneously, I felt the anger and fatigue of the last few months fall off me as if I was wearing a heavy suite of armour that had suddenly been shed.  I was myself again.

I don't know when medicine became about the 99213, med reconciliation, and meaningful use.  I choke on the complexity of the artificial system that we have gone to great lengths to construct.  We are expending all our strength and good will on useless bureaucratic minutia.

I almost forgot that as human beings our job is to be there for one another.  A friendly face.  A kind word.  The sharing of some minor wisdom.

As a profession, medicine offers this in spades.

1 comment:

Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

"As human beings our job is to be there for one another. A friendly face. A kind word. The sharing of some minor wisdom.

As a profession, medicine offers this in spades."

This is why i am a care provider-not a doctor, but a professional nonetheless, and very proud of the personal work i do with my patients.

Thank you for saying it so cleanly and concisely.