For the first time in the almost-10 years that I’ve been a family doctor, do I actually feel like I’m a family doctor.
I’m busy! I am pretty much fully booked every day that I am here and often don’t leave the office until at least an hour after I finish seeing patients. I’ve been back to work for two months and initially the busyness was expected, and I thought things would have settled down by now. But no, it hasn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather be busy when I’m at work then sitting around twiddling my thumbs with unbooked appointments. I’m glad that I am available for my patients. I’m glad they don’t have to go to a walk-in clinic. Sure, a few will go regardless if I’m available or not, after all, I can’t accommodate everyone’s schedule, but when it’s a steady stream of patients all day with no break, it gets pretty exhausting.
Gone are the days, I fear, where I could see my last patient and be out the door a little after 5pm. Now I have to finish charting my notes, call those two patients, do that referral and finish that insurance report.
When did I grow up to be the typical busy family doctor? It seems to have happened overnight.
I used to pride myself on running an efficient day and not being late. But then fifteen minutes behind turned into twenty, and now sometimes thirty-five to forty minutes. Thankfully it’s not often because those days when I run late stress the hell out of me. I don’t want to keep people waiting, I know they have places to be and busy lives and lord knows I don’t want to be getting home well after 6pm every night – that’s when my kids go to bed! I want to tuck them in and tell them a story. I feel guilty when I’m late because that means husband has more to do and doesn’t get a break. Thankfully he totally understands and knows it comes with the job but still, if our roles were reversed I could see it getting to me.
My practice is growing, patients are getting older, and life just happens. I can’t control the mother of two small children who comes to see me at 4:45pm and then takes a half hour to explain how she found out her husband is cheating on her and feels like her life is falling apart. How am I supposed to tell her that her time is up at 5pm? I can’t, obviously. These situations don’t happen often but they always seem to happen on the days when I am already running behind. It’s like the universe knows or something.
More importantly, illness happens. On any given day there is no way to predict what will walk through my door. The majority of the time family medicine is pretty run of the mill and preventative care. But when illness happens it throws a wrench in my day. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of paperwork and lab results; in insurance and medico-legal reports. Some days I wonder what was put in the local water supply because all the “crazies” show up on the same day.
But most days, I love being here and seeing my patients and even though I’m tired and hungry and may not want to listen to someone else complain about their life, I really couldn’t imagine doing anything else.