Finally have my head above water in the writing world, enough to write a quick blog post. Hi >waves at everyone<, hope all is well. I haven’t chatted a ton lately. Actually, if you get my newsletter, you’re getting more frequent updates and news.
I just finished a top secret medical romance manuscript. You all will be the first to know if anything comes of it in the publishing world, but it’s what you’ve come to expect in terms of pulse-pounding (yes, with a pulse requiring epi and a defibrillator) as well as hot and steamy scenes. The logline of this book is “Gray’s Anatomy meets Northern Exposure” or “General Hospital meets Life Below Zero.” (take your pick) I can’t wait to show it to you!
(photo credit: BLM Winter Bucket List #11: White Mountains National Recreation Area, Alaska, for Trails Surrounded by Rugged Beauty and Northern Lightshow" by mypubliclands is licensed under CC BY 2.0.)
This medical romance book was shockingly difficult for me to write. Which is funny, if you consider my Day Job as a rural family doctor! If I examine the hesitation honestly, I’ve put off writing a medical romance for many years, even though that was my area of expertise. I think it was because the subject matter would have hit too close to home if I did it accurately. And if I turned it into something like New Amsterdam (blarf) or Gray’s Anatomy (seriously, who does stuff like that?), which is what audiences are used to seeing as “normal,” then it would have felt super weird.
To be clear: Treating a massive fluid-flinging trauma or doing a sweaty 6-hour surgery, then going back to the call room, ripping off scrubs, and having wild monkey sex? Gross and double gross. Anyone with rudimentary knowledge of germ theory and a working nose can understand why those post-crisis call room sex scenes just skeeve me the heck out.
The other thing I know is that this project is the most personal to me to date – more than any other book I’ve written, this one pulled in a ton of lived experience. I came out of the writing cave feeling emotionally exposed in ways that surprised me.
Which parts are real and which parts are fiction? I’ll never tell …!
(I mean, you can rule out the call room sex right off the bat. Seriously, just look at all the sweat and germs in that sterile scene!)
Yes, one day I'll get back to the writing posts. The light and breezy posts that make folks giggle.
But not today. I need to process this night. Couldn't tell my parents because they are already horrified and I'm only telling them about 20% of what I'm dealing with. I told hubs, but he's already doing a lot to support me and doesn't need to be my counselor as well. Didn't make sense for a Twitter thread or Facebook post. (Knowing FB, the deniers will come out and try to explain why none of this is real.)
Trust me. It's real. And it's terrible.
Within the past week, I had the worst hospital call night ever. That's saying something, considering I have written posts about delivering stillborn babies at 3am. But this recent night was as bad if not worse but in a different way.
There’s something about airports that gets me in the writing mood. It’s probably because any time I’m in the airport, by default it means that I’m not on call/working at the Day Job. (Okay, that’s kind of a fib. I totally just logged off the EMR where I was putting out a few fires right before this plane boards. Anyway.)
There’s a saying in medicine: “You want care that is Good, Fast, and Cheap? Just know that you can’t have all three – you have to pick two.” Yes, there might be some public health folks who disagree, but just go with me on this one, because in broad brushstrokes, it’s true.
You know what else is true? I can’t have Medicine, Manuscripts, and Mayhem all at the same time. I have to pick two to focus on at any given time. As writers, we’re always picking two out of the three things. Or sometimes we’re choosing two out of four or more aspects of our lives for our focs! We’re making that seesaw balance, back and forth, all the time.
We’ve heard so much about burnout. There are articles in my medical journals about physician burnout, Posts about burnout for writers, and articles about physical burnout in my trail running magazines. In each of these documents, the guidance is clear: take time for yourself. That’s cool.
But what happens when you don’t have the time to take?
What happens when everything fries at once?
So, quick update for those of you who don’t know me yet. I’m a family doc who does deliveries (FP/Ob) near The End Of The Earth. It’s rural, and no we don’t have specialists. FP’s do most stuff. In my clinic, I’m it for Ob – we don’t have another FP/Ob on site for my group, so I workity-work as long as I think I can go, then get a locums doctor to come in and cover for a few weeks while I try to recharge. Only this time, nothing is recharging. I pushed beyond what was prudent over the past three months and it caught up to me in a nasty hurry.
This is going to be a long post, but it needs to be written. It has to do with a developing leader being told to speak up – but not speak up >too< much. It has to do with a seasoned physician being presented with a terrible choice: remain true to herself or become someone else’s definition of success.
And it has to do with trusting that one’s core values and self are really … perfectly reasonable and adequate, after all.
First of all, folks, let me set up this situation.
#1) Recruiting physicians to a rural area is the hardest recruit in all of medicine. When we see a quality applicant, everyone knows that this applicant is looking at several other locations, all equally in need of good help. Other locations do not have the constraints that my group does; we cannot throw a boatload of money at a candidate because of the way the larger organization is structured (our constraints involve maintaining Medicare designation, nonprofit status, etc.) What that means is this organization, unlike others who are also recruiting as hard as they can, is required to offer industry standard rates for things like salaries. We have to be careful with extra incentives like financial bonuses or created directorships to help the employment package. That’s cool, though. In the end, we doctors who want to be here for the right reasons. Just understand that candidates are not beating down any doors -- anywhere, given supply/demand in the market these days. And especially not FP/Ob (family docs who do obstetrics). They’re like the Sasquatch or the last of the white rhinos.
Man, I hate to call them “resolutions” because the word sounds so formal, so big, and so insurmountable. But for the first time in a long time, I feel the need to make a list about the upcoming year, if only to bring focus to the next 365 days. Also, it’s scary to write these things down for all to see – but it’s important to keep doing stuff that scares me. So here goes…
#1) Get better at saying “no” to more call/more duties/more meetings and not feel any guilt when saying “no”.
#2) Complete a 4-year longitudinal leadership course to create future non-clinical opportunities.
#3) Cease being afraid/too modest to describe my experience, background, and strengths.
#4) Focus on patient care, and try to ignore all other BS. If it’s not about patient care, I’m not spending time/energy on it.
#5) Seek out leadership opportunities.
#6) Champion development of a resident training program at my hospital.
Recently, I responded to a series of colleague’s tweets regarding the way an intern was treated. https://twitter.com/CadenceDO/status/823300940895842311 The intern was part of a team that cared for a young adult in the ICU, and they had to withdraw life support. (I know nothing of the situation, but withdrawing life support generally occurs when brain activity is not present.) So, one of the most gut-wrenching events to experience not only for the family members, of course, but also for the medical personnel caring for the patient.
The tweet story went on to explain that once care had finished, the intern asked to step away for a few moments in private and collect himself. (Or herself. Interesting side question: would this story play differently if the intern were male or female?) The intern was then given a negative evaluation comment by the attending physician because the intern displayed emotions.
Because there are times when when I get drained and need to recover, this story generated a ton of thoughts and concerns.
#1) Are there instructors out there teaching our medical students/residents to “not feel”? Let me be clear: if medical professionals lose their humanity, then health care is no better than being treated by a robot. Quite frankly, I don’t want to be treated by people who have zero emotional response if I live or die. And also, I don’t want to BE a treating physician who has no emotional response to my patients’ situations.
#2) Let’s talk burnout. There is a direct correlation with suppressing emotional distress/stress and the development of burnout. There are papers upon papers written on this subject. People have developed freakin’ CURRICULUM about how to “talk through” these stressful times with peers, family, or counselors. Training a doctor to suppress the very thing that makes them human? Cruel. Destructive.
This blog post highlights a unique anthology slated for release in 2017 and spearheaded by Victoria Griffin. It involves stories regarding brain injuries/concussions. The anthology, “Flooded”, will contain selected works from authors who have experienced or observed brain injuries, or who have written about them in a way that makes the experience tangible to a reader.
As a physician, I see the devastating effects of brain injuries in my patients. From teenagers who are no longer allowed to play sports and who now have cognitive challenges, to adults whose brain injury has literally changed their personality, to veterans who have suffered TBI’s (traumatic brain injuries) and struggle to explain why they are disabled when they bear no visible scars – brain injuries can be complex to manage, long-lasting, and the effects can change from day to day.
One of the most profound concussion cases I witnessed was in medical school when an internal medicine physician in a rural practice had what anyone would think was a simple concussion. Dr. Smith (name changed) was pulling into his driveway, had his seatbelt off, and another vehicle hit the back of his car. He had a brief loss of consciousness and a headache.
Three months later, Dr. Smith still couldn’t function at anywhere close to previous work capacity. His short- and long-term memory suffered. He couldn’t recall patients he had cared for over the past 20 years!
Ok, people. This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Otherwise known and "Save the Ta Ta's" month.
It's not simply about wearing pink, although that's cool and everything, no question. Pink rocks.
A few quick facts:
Breast cancer is the #1 cancer in women.
It KILLS over 40,000 women per year.
1 in 8 women will be affected by breast cancer.
And yes, fellas. Guys can get breast cancer, too.
What about a new study that questions the value of mammography? Look, here's what we know, and here's what the preponderance of research tells us: Mammograms save lives. Period. There's new data suggesting that we might be picking breast cancer up super early in the stage just prior to invasive breast cancer, and maybe this is "over-estimating" the cancer?
If it's there, why not fix it early? Who wants to take the chance and wait? Seriously.
(Trigger warning: miscarriage/stillbirth)
So yesterday was day number…whatever…of this last call block. I’m off call today, going to a writing conference (ECWC). But before I could leave for ECWC, there was work to be done, and yesterday pushed the emotional and physical limits of my patients and me.
Doesn’t help that I have a whopper of a cold. Yeah, no one wants to acknowledge it, but doctors get sick. Especially when I see every coughing, booger-oozing toddler in a twenty-mile radius for the past two weeks. And those same sick toddlers like to sneeze directly on me, or grab at my face with those grabby, snotty, glistening, crusty little hands. So that’s the background. Not at 100% to begin with on this last day of the call week.
Yesterday. Phone rings at 6:30am. It’s the ER. 20 week patient has delivered a fetus literally 2 minutes ago in the ER, and the patient is bleeding badly. My head spins. Is it my patient? If so, which one? ER doc doesn’t give a name. Just asks me to get there quickly. I go from REM sleep to fully awake in 5 seconds and provide a few orders before pulling on clothes and hurrying to the hospital. En route, I’m thinking through hemorrhage protocols and meds, and also planning for the non-clinical things that need to be done to help the patient through such a devastating event.
Author, daydreamer, and practitioner of trying very hard to duct tape folks together and help when I can.
July 2023 June 2023 April 2023 December 2022 November 2022 September 2022 August 2022 June 2022 May 2022 February 2022 January 2021 November 2020 August 2020 July 2020 May 2020 January 2020 November 2019 September 2019 August 2019 July 2019 March 2019 November 2018 October 2018 September 2018 July 2018 June 2018 May 2018 April 2018 March 2018 January 2018 December 2017 November 2017 October 2017 September 2017 August 2017 July 2017 May 2017 April 2017 March 2017 February 2017 January 2017 December 2016 November 2016 October 2016 September 2016 August 2016 July 2016 June 2016 May 2016 April 2016 March 2016 February 2016 January 2016 December 2015 November 2015 October 2015 September 2015 August 2015 July 2015 June 2015 May 2015 April 2015 March 2015 February 2015 January 2015 December 2014 November 2014 October 2014 September 2014 August 2014 July 2014 June 2014
All Adventures With Hubby Airports Author Interviews Cats Fastdrafting Funny Medicine Hell's Valley Series Hell To Pay Series Medicine Potpourri Star Trek Top 10 Lists Writing Writing Vs Medicine