doctors are human too, primary care

It’s All Right to Cry

I’m a crier.  I always have been.

I well up during television commercials.  Many a book has been returned to the library somewhat waterlogged by my teardrops.

I cry when I’m sad, when I’m happy, and when I’m angry.  I cry when I laugh.

And I cry in front of patients.

I used to be embarrassed by this.  I’d hide my tears with a tissue and a muttered excuse of “allergies.”  Or I’d turn my back to wash my hands at the sink, furtively giving my eyes a swipe.

But sometime in the past few years, I stopped being ashamed of my tears.  My patients come to me and share both their happiest and their most terrible moments.  I’ve been honored to tell many patients that they’re pregnant.  Why shouldn’t I cry with happiness at the beginning of a new life?

I’ve also had to tell too many patients that they are dying.  I’ve sat with them and their families during their final hours.  And if they’ve allowed me into such a sacred time in their life, why should I hide my tears from them?

I care about my patients, deeply.  Some say that it’s wrong for doctors to show emotion, and that caring so much can lead to burnout.  I say that’s a load of bunk.

For me, the day I stop caring enough to cry with a patient is the day I hang up my white coat and find another profession.

medicine, primary care, Uncategorized

Busy Work

I’m sure everyone hates busy work.  By definition, all it does is take up time while providing no actual intrinsic value.  I don’t need stuff to take up time needlessly.  I’m short enough on time as is.  That’s why I hate getting stuff like this:

This was sent by a private visiting nurse service regarding one of my patients.  She has been receiving home services from them for years.  Years.  Nothing has changed.  However, they’ve now changed accreditation companies, and the new company wants me to state my orders in a different fashion.  Note that this adds NOTHING to the care of my patients.  My old orders work just fine.  They just want me to say if differently.

Not to worry, though.  They sent this helpful sample letter.

So, it’s basically like Medical MadLibs.  Fill in the blank.  Just without the humorous results.

So I dictated a letter with her name and meds filled into the blanks.

Why was this necessary?  Why do I need to waste my time on such drivel?

Here’s another great example of busy work.  As an employee of a large corporation, I am required to do all sorts of “compliance training.”  I have to do it on my own time, of course.  Just to make sure it’s done, I’m constantly getting helpful email reminders.

One of my favorites was the required course on preventing physician burnout.  It was a four hour course.  To be completed on my own time.  A course on preventing burnout, to be done at home, when I should have been spending time with my family.

Do they not see the irony in this situation?

I added up all the training that I’ve had to do for work in my “free time,” and it came out to 12 hours. That’s a full day and a half of work.

No wonder they need to spend four hours telling us not to get burned out.

iPhone, swimming, triathlon

Equipment Review- Waterfi Waterproof iPod Shuffle

In my last post, I expounded on my dislike for swimming.  I’m just not very good at it and I don’t like doing it.  I find it boring.  Now, every year when I give my little motivational talk to the new members of my running group, I review some common excuses that people use for not running.  One of them is “It’s boring.”  My response to this is, “Activities aren’t boring.  It’s up to the person doing the activity to find the pleasure in running.”

Well, I’ll say it right here.  Swimming is boring.  Going back and forth in a pool, staring at a black line on the bottom…zzzzzzzz.  It’s like being on a treadmill.  And yes, treadmills are boring.  But I have also vowed that I WILL swim more, so that I don’t end up being one of the last finishers again in my next race.

When the weather is bad and I’m relegated to the treadmill, I listen to music or audiobooks.  It’s the only thing that makes the treadmill bearable.  I figured there’s got to be a way to do the same while swimming, so I started researching waterproof headphones.  It turns out there are options!  I was initially attracted to the Finis SwiMP3.  Instead of earbuds, it has these paddles that clip to your googles and lie against your temple and cheekbone.  The soundwaves transmit through the skull, and it’s supposed to work really well.  However, the MP3 format doesn’t support the audiobooks that I listen to, so I nixed that option.

I eventually decided on the Waterfi Waterproof iPod Shuffle.  Since I love all things Apple, this was a good fit with me.  It would allow me to sync my already existing iTunes library without any difficulty, and I could also listen to my audiobooks.

The device itself is pretty cool.  The people at Waterfi actually take regular Shuffles and completely waterproof them.  The resulting product looks like any other Shuffle, but it’s waterproof up to 210 feet. The kit comes with waterproof headphones.

It also comes with velcro to attach to shuffle to the goggles strap, but I found it just as easy to just clip on the Shuffle.  The headphone wires are needlessly long, which was kind of annoying.  I followed the directions and looped them around the velcro to make them shorter.

Then put on a swim cap, googles on, and good to go!

I have to admit, upon getting into the pool there was a moment of panic. I mean- I was willingly entering the water with an electronic device strapped to my head.  This went against nature in a very fundamental way.  Well, I had come that far, and I wasn’t about to do that boring swim without listening to my book.  I took a deep breath and plunged in.  To my relief, my head did not catch on fire.  Even better…it actually worked.  I was listening to my book and swimming!

It made the swimming much more pleasurable.  Before I knew it, a half hour had gone by.  I did have to stop a few times to adjust the earbuds until I figured out the best way to position them for both good sound and no water in my ears.  Once I had that down pat, it was smooth sailing.

So, a big thumbs up/ 5 stars for the Waterfi iPod Shuffle.  Happy swimming days are ahead.

biking, Kingston triathlon, running, swimming, triathlon

Race Report

Sorry for the long blogging absence.  We were on vacation, then crazy catch-up at work, and of course, training for the triathlon!

And….I did it!  It wasn’t fast, it wasn’t pretty, but it was completed.  So, here’s my race report of the first annual Kingston Triathlon.

First of all, kudos to the race planners and volunteers.  The race was well planned, well-run, and overall a pleasure to participate in.

I arrived at the race at 6:30 AM.  Now, I’m used to road races.  You pretty much show up with your running shoes and go.  No so with a triathlon.  You need a lot of…stuff.  A lot.

Obviously, you need your bike.  And your helmet.  Sunglasses.  Sneakers. Biking shoes.  A towel or two.  Water.   Snacks.  Socks.  Goggles (which I forgot and was lucky enough to borrow a pair).  You get the picture.  Then you have to arrange everything just so, for quick and easy transitions in between segments of the race.

Many triathaloners wear wetsuits for the swim.  I didn’t wear one, thinking, “It’s August and the water is 72 degrees.  What do I need a wetsuit for?”  I was stupid.  I forgot that wetsuits give you nice buoyancy in the water.  So, basically, I had already handicapped myself for what was already going to be my weakest segment.  No matter.  I was excited and ready to go!

For the swim portion of the race, there were three start times.  The first wave was men, the second was women, and the third was novices/slowpokes.  Guess which wave I started in.

I was pretty relaxed until I actually walked out onto that dock.  That’s when it started to sink in that I was actually going to have to swim in this lake, and that if I got tired I couldn’t just grab onto the side of the pool.  My training leading up to the race mostly consisted of biking and running.  I’m embarrassed to say that swimming took a back seat, partially due to the overall crummy weather, but mostly because I just really don’t enjoy swimming that much.  I was about to get a lesson in the consequences of poor preparation.  After all of us in the slowpoke wave had walked out onto the dock, we had to jump in and tread water.  That sucked.  I had hoped that we could dive in and start swimming, because I could use all the momentum I could get.  No dice.  We had to tread water for about a minute and then the gun went off, and we were off.

Slowly.  I was quickly left in the metaphorical dust.  All around me, people were gliding forward with a graceful freestyle.  I settled into a tortoise-like pace with my trusty breast-stroke.  After a minute or so, I looked behind me.  I didn’t see anyone.  There were a few swimmers even with me, but I was one of the slowest.  This pissed me off, I won’t lie.  When it comes down to it, I’m a competitive person.  I don’t think I’d be where I am today if I wasn’t.  And being last was pissing me off.

Now, I may be competitive, but I’m not stupid.  I was tempted to pick up the pace to try to catch up to everyone else, but the rational part of my mind said to keep to my current pace, since drowning would really suck.  I’d just try to make up time in the other parts of the race.  I’m glad I listened to the rational part of my mind, because by the end of the swim I was tired.  Really tired.  And I cringe to think about what would have happened if I had tried to overextend myself.

As I dragged myself out of the lake and ran up the hill to the transition area, my legs felt like lead and my only thought was, “Crap. I’m only 1/3 of the way through.”  The donut and coffee I’d had for breakfast were threatening to make an unwelcome reappearance.

Well, I had come this far. I wasn’t about to quit.

The bike ride was actually the easiest part of the race.  It was hilly, but I had already done a practice run on the course and I knew what to expect.  It went fast, and the competitive part of me was happy to pass a bunch of people.

Then it was another transition, and on to the run!

Now, it said on the website that it was a 5K trail run.  I was expecting a run through the woods.  I wasn’t expecting to have to scale boulders, climb over downed tree trunks, and splash through mud pits.  Needless to say, it was not my best 5K time.  Not even close.  I actually fell three times. Luckily, the ground was soft.  I stopped being embarrassed after the first fall.

And that’s it!  I was headed to the finish line.

So, that’s my race report.  Will I do another triathlon? You bet!  But next time, I’m actually going to practice the swim (and wear a wetsuit!).