I spent most of the morning … okay, who am I kidding? I spent the entire morning in bed watching Once Upon A Time in Hollywood with my husband. And then we watched a bunch of random YouTube videos. The kids were happily in the basement eating Eggos and watching a Marvel movie.
You see I usually work Saturdays at my other job. But I had the day off today. And boy did I need it. I haven’t really had a vacation since, well, March. We did go to a cottage in July but I was still checking labs and having to be in touch with the office. None of my colleagues wanted to cover for me and frankly, I didn’t want to cover for them. We are all exhausted.
Burnt out in fact.
I don’t feel like I have much more to give anyone right now. My patients take up so much of my daily energy that I don’t feel like I have a lot left for anyone else. Not myself. Not my kids nor my husband. I know this feeling well. It sneaks up on me every 3-4 months in a good year but during a pandemic?
Everyone I talk to, and I mean everyone is feeling pandemic fatigue. Either they are working from home with their kids in online school; or they are caring for elderly parents while working from home; or they are laid off and trying to find money for their medications; or they are lonely and their depression is worsening.
So this morning I didn’t talk to anyone. I lay in bed and watched a movie while sipping coffee.
Nah. Plenty of other people are doing that. I won’t belabour that point.
Hi folks! Been a while, I know. Frankly, haven’t really had the time to sit and write. I’ve wanted to, a lot, but didn’t think I had anything to say that would interest anyone. And to be honest, I still think that. But here I am anyway.
I’m home a lot more now, like most people. Working from home 4 days a week, for a long time from a make-shift ironing board-turned desk in my bedroom. That was fun. (Not really). The ergonomics were terrible, I suffered with brutal upper back spasms for almost 2 months. Should have gone to see a doctor! 😉
But then, after months of lock-down, my husband masked up and went to a furniture store and got me a desk. It’s great! Far more functional than the ironing board, and far sturdier too. Even the cats agree!
As much as they can get in the way, the cats really have been wonderful company for me as I sit for hours every day doing telemedicine. Occasionally they’ve knocked over my phone, spilled my water and licked my snacks, fought with each other, you know typical feline behavior.
But they seem to have a knack of knowing when a particular phone call gets tedious and exhausting, because they’ll do something funny to distract me.
I suspect this new normal will be with us for a while. I have gotten used to my cats being with me, so used to it in fact, that I actually miss them when I physically go in to work to see patients 1 day a week. It’s amazing to me how fast we can adapt to change. I’m not sure I want things to ever go back to the “old” normal.
This summer marked 12 years since I became a family physician. I have had my family practice, whereby I am primary care physician for close to a thousand patients, for the past 10 years. I have learned a tremendous amount this past decade but over the past couple of years I have come to realize that I cannot be everything to everyone.
Let me state that again.
I cannot be everything to everyone.
In the early days of practice, I used to believe that if I couldn’t help a patient that must mean I failed them in some way. After one patient yelled at me because I wasn’t helping them enough, I nearly broke down. I was just back from my first maternity leave and struggling with my own post-partum depression. To be yelled at in my own office and basically told that I was a shitty doctor, well it was the first time I came to tears while seeing a patient. I had to excuse myself and take a breath. Thank goodness for my colleagues present in the office that day. After I composed myself and debriefed with one of them, I walked back into the exam room. I listened to his concerns and formulated a plan for him. The appointment ended.
I learned a valuable lesson that day. I can’t fix people’s lives and while I believe that many patients don’t really expect me to, there is often an unspoken expectation that because I am a physician, I somehow have the answer to all that ails them.
Let me be perfectly clear on this…. I do not.
I can’t fix your life.
I can provide you advice, counsel and recommend options to you – all this in about 15 minutes, sometimes half an hour. I just can’t delve into your life and pick the up the pieces for you. I can’t do that for one patient, let alone close to a thousand patients.
Having said that, I still do sometimes want to be able to be present for and participate in all aspects of a patient’s care – to be there when their baby is born; to be there when the breast cancer is surgically removed; to be there when the chemotherapy is administered; to hold their hand as they take their last breath.
I want to do it all. I want to be that all-encompassing physician who does it all.
Do I vote yes and be complicit in accepting a 4 year agreement that knowingly under funds health care and continues to reduce my income; or do I say no and be subject to further unknown unilateral fee cuts for the foreseeable future.
Not so easy a choice is it?
Better to be screwed facing your attacker? Or better to be blindsided from behind?
Because that’s essentially what the physicians in my province are facing.
Damned if we do. Damned if we don’t.
I am not political. Never have been and really, never want to be. But I just can’t stay quiet on this any longer.
I am being asked to trust a government that has grossly mismanaged health care for years now and wastes taxpayers money on scandal after scandal.
I am being asked to help manage utilization of health care resources. What does that mean? Do I tell a patient that they can’t have that ultrasound because we have exceeded the budget for that month? Do I close my office one day a week because I am exceeding the budget for that month? Do I tell my staff to take an unpaid vacation day once a week because I can no longer afford to pay them for 40 hours of work anymore?
Hard to believe it’s almost the end of June. There’s been a lot going on in my world, most of it pretty good.
My dad is on the mend from his kidney stone issues and has remained pretty stable with respect to his memory and the Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Two rounds of infection, two general anesthetics, mild delerium and his memory testing was the same! Unbelievable really. The thing with AD is that the patient kind of remains oblivious to the reality around him. He recognizes that his memory has declined but he doesn’t understand anymore the impact it has on everyone else, his wife especially. If there is any blessing with AD it is that the patient loses their higher executive, frontal lobe functioning early. It is quite the opposite for the family. My mom is a strong woman though and she is managing pretty well; she goes to her weekly support group, my brother works from their place once a week and she visits the kids when it gets too much. I wish there was more I could do for her and for my dad.
As for me, I’ve done two races this month with decent results, given how awful the winter was with my running. I have another 10K race this weekend and I am not expecting to do any better than 1:15 but that’s okay. It’s an opportunity to have some fun, run on the highway and get a cool T-shirt and medal!
I’m starting a new part-time job next month in addition to my family practice. It is an opportunity I sought out and I am excited about. It is an opportunity to grow as a physician, learn about a different model of care and will be a great change of scenery for me. I’ll be a lot busier, working 5 days a week (instead of 4) but I think I’m up for the challenge. The future of primary care in my province is looking hazy right now and I am a little worried. We have been without a contract with our Government for over two years and they are planning on implementing change to how primary care is delivered without consulting the front line workers, ie me! I felt it was time to start looking at other opportunities where my work is actually appreciated.
It’s been a while. Work has been exceptionally busy at times. There was a stretch for a few weeks where I wasn’t getting home until well after 6pm. The busy pace is good but when it slows down it seems to really slow down. Like, snail’s pace slow. So slow that I’ve gone out for mid-day runs during the week.
My running comeback has been slow. I still struggle at times with shin splints and am pretty convinced it’s shoe related but just haven’t found the time to get new shoes. I’ve been wearing an older pair which is much better than my current new-ish pair but it’s not ideal. Unfortunately the old shoe isn’t made anymore, I don’t think, so I will have to spend some time trying on new brands and well, there just isn’t enough time right now.
Remember that sourdough starter? Well it’s still going! I’ve made several loaves of bread and have figured out what works and what doesn’t but making just bread all the time is getting boring. Husband found me a recipe for saltine crackers.
They were so good, they rocked!! 😉
Yesterday I tried the Joy of Cooking’s recipe for pretzels. A little bit time consuming and laborious but well worth the final product.
We also have a new pet.
Have I mentioned we also have a snake? He’s a ball python. We’ve had him for about 10 years now. My husband rescued him from his nephew. He eats live mice. Daughter is coming to the age where she understands that the snake eats and what he eats is live mice. Well one day over a month ago, she was particularly smitten with one particular mouse. She begged her daddy not to feed him to the snake.
When I got home from work that night, it was late and the kids were already in bed. I was surprised to see that there was a mouse still alive. Husband told me that daughter wanted to keep it, so if she woke up the next morning and still asked about the mouse, he would let her keep it. First thing the next morning, she woke up and asked him if he saved the mouse. How could he refuse her? Late that day, the $2.99 mouse was living in a swanky one bedroom apartment worth $75.00. Almost two months later, he is alive and well and thriving. Daughter takes excellent care of him. She cleans out his cage every 2 weeks when the stink gets bad, she is responsible for feeding him and making sure he has enough water. She has turned into a wonderful mouse mother.
This mother couldn’t be more proud.
The mouse’s name is Speck. Even the cat is tolerating him.