Wednesday, February 15, 2012


**Target is dangerous. I saw a heart shaped miniature pie-press,and wham-o! How could I not have a Valentine's tea party for Tiny and a couple of her friends?**

Among the many things that can interrupt the mojo of an afternoon of patient care, are fire alarms.

Yep, fire alarms.

Take this week, for example. My patient was all set up for her IUD placement, and my nurse and I were at the ready. I sat down to begin, when I heard a strange buzzing.

"What's that sound?" I asked my nurse.

"I'm not sure--should I check?"

"Yes, just in case it's a fire alarm."

**I think Rockstar's alarm bells go off everytime I walk by the dollar bins. Because suddenly I'm in a haze of, 'it's pink and miniature and ONLY A DOLLAR!' Seriously, though, thanks for the cute straws and party bags, Target.**

Well, whaddya know, it was! My patient was gracious about her sudden, albeit temporary, reprieve from the scheduled procedure. My nurse and I waited outside for her to get dressed. Several people passed us while we waited, and advised us to get a move on. We advised them that it seemed in poor taste to leave without our customer.

We walked out into the (mercifully mild) weather, and observed an enormous group of people--staff, doctors, nurses, patient's--standing together in the parking lot. Commenting on the cold, checking smart phones, wondering if this was 'real'.

I wondered how I was going to come back from what ultimately ended up being an almost 40 minute evacuation (!!!).

Miraculously, things went incredibly smooth once we got back into our office. Patients were understanding, visits were fairly straightforward, and a normal departure time looked not at all unlikely.

My last patient was a nice woman who I've been taking care of for a while. In the course of our conversation, she mentioned some chest pain that she'd had recently. She seemed almost embarrassed to bring it up. "I know I shouldn't even say that word in a doctor's office," she said.

**Say the word 'jewlerybox' to four little girls, and you've suddenly got their undivided attention! Again, thank you to the dollar bins.**

After discussing it, I knew we needed to do an EKG. Since we were down in a satellite office that afternoon, it would take the nurse some additional time to get the machine brought over and set-up. I mentioned to the patient that I wanted to proceed with doing the EKG and she said, 'But you guys have families that you need to get home to! Are you sure?'

I laughed it off and said, "I promise you that I don't base my clinical decision making on what time I want to leave the office.

I left the room and waited for the EKG to be done, feeling grateful for my nurse. She didn't even bat an eye at the delay.

Here's the thing: I'm not going to lie and tell you that there was no passing disappointment when I realized that my family would be waiting an extra half hour for my arrival home.

But the weight and joy of this white coat is that when it's on, it's just really not about me.

And that is the thing that ultimately keeps me going. Because when it's the right cause, giving more of yourself than you sometimes want to give means pushing through to something better. It means fighting fatigue and being flexible to land in that place of satisfied exhaustion that fills you up and lets you know that maybe your efforts are adding up to something bigger after all.

**My girl loves nothing better than to take pieces of this, and bits of that, and turn it into something bigger. In fact, I think she could do it all day long.**


  1. Oh my goodness. I love dollar bin mini things too!!! Great post as usual.

  2. A 40 minute fire drill!! Who's in charge there?

  3. Kate - I think this is an awesome post. I love hearing about your practice because it all seems so far away to me, as an MS1. Often I find myself digging deep to remember a moment where I connected with a patient - when they said "Thank you" or something I did made some difference - and use that to remind myself that the long nights of studying and the long days of lecture and exams aren't about ME. They're about my patients. Suddenly I find it so much easier to not be worried about my exam grade or my exhaustion, but just say, "This isn't about me" and carry on.

    The thing I struggle with is this: How do I be okay with taking that time away from my son and husband and (essentially) acknowledge, "It's not about me... OR you." It's so hard sacrificing family time for patients on my child's behalf. I see so many children of physicians resent the time their dad missed a baseball game to repair an aortic aneurism or counsel a patient. Where do you draw the line and how do you reconcile that boundary, emotionally?

  4. Loved the Valentine's Party! It looks like it was fabulous. Is there ever a dull day working as a doctor? I mean, when it's not a patient, it's always got to be something else right?

  5. Aurora-- These are great and important questions. I think they deserve their own post. I'll write that this week--i hope you don't mind if I use the last part of your comment in the post!
    Captrob--so true! I always look at my nurse in the middle of craziness and say, 'never boring!' :)
    L&L: seriously!
    Robs: tx! miss you lady.

  6. I have those same hearts hanging in my window. I <3 Target. I wish there was one closer to me. Mine is more than two hours away...which makes me want to cry. Long distance relationships are so hard!


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