Saturday, January 06, 2007

Pediatric Check-Up: Crazy Saturday

I get asked what my life is like fairly often, as I'm undergoing a type of training whose rigor is renowned. In J. Ruth Gendler's book, The Book of Qualities, I like how she describes how some people seek out suffering and are proud of having suffered. Some people avoid it. I sit somewhere in the continuum, but towards the avoidant side. I don't buy the idea that suffering automatically makes the sufferer noble. In my totally unresearched opinion, that's a religious tale they sold to some peasants to make them feel better about themselves. Yet, if an education or an experience is valuable enough to me, I'm willing to work to get it.

Currently, I'm an intern at the Pediatric Residency Training Program at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, which is a lot of capitalized words. What it means is that I am in my first of three years of training to be a general pediatrician. The curriculum varies somewhat from program to program, though all programs must meet criteria to be accredited, so core facets remain similar across the country. Our year is divided into 13 four-week blocks called rotations. Each block we operate within a different part of the pediatric medical world, going from inpatient (hospital) service to outpatient to emergency to critical care to different types of specialty care.

This block I'm doing is called PARC: Pediatric Advocacy, Rural and Community. It's a relatively light block in terms of hours required. Scheduled activities are half-days at the most, with the rest of the time for self-study. The goal of the block is to educate pediatric residents in the process of advocating for our patients. This is a fluid target. "Our patients" could involve a specific patient, a family group, a certain ethnic or minority group in the area, or even creating change on a national level. "Advocating" can involve helping find resources to pay for a patient's chemotherapy, or making seat belt laws physiologically make sense for children, or writing a column, or teaching children how to safely approach a dog. Pediatricians as a group tend to be active advocates, though the issues and the populations we speak for may be very diverse. This month rests us (interns) from our labors, broadens our education, grounds us back in who we are, and gives us quality time with whatever we choose.

During this month, we also cross-cover (meaning serve where we are not working full time) the hospital urgent care clinic. Whomever covers the clinic also takes phone calls from worried mothers at night. Normally Saturdays are pretty light in clinic as we are only open from 9 AM to 2 PM, and I think that most patients don't know that we're open and don't want to go to the doctor on a weekend anyway. So what's a Saturday in the life of a resident like? Today, there was a rush of patients from opening to closing, and I was taking phone calls during clinic hours as well. I bought a coffee and biscuit for breakfast at 9 AM, ate the first bite while standing up at 11:30 AM, at the last bite while standing up at 3 PM, and left at 4:30 PM while starving for some linguine. The unpredictability of patient care is why I never commit to anything during work days when the time I leave is scheduled as "when the last patient is done". Not even food, my first and foremost romantic partner on some days, is exempt from this. I estimate that the last patient left around 5PM. I'm still taking phone calls. Crazy.

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