I leaned toward the physician I was shadowing and apologized. I had a class to get to. She nodded and said, “No problem. Hopefully today was a good experience.” She didn’t shake my hand, as her finger was the only thing blocking a hole in her patient’s common iliac artery. I wished I could stay longer, but class called. Med school puts you in odd situations.
While on a recent hike, I reached the top of a hill. It wasn’t much of a climb, but I was glad to be alone so I didn’t have to hide the fact that I was out of breath. Perched at the top was a bench. I sat down, still breathing hard, and took in the vista. During the climb, my eyes had been focused on the ground in front of me. I took a picture that I’d probably never look at again.
I had the privilege of working as a scribe in oncology last year. For several months, we had to severely cut back who was able to come into our clinic. Our patients receiving chemotherapy still came in person, but family members were no longer able to accompany them, robbing them of that crucial emotional support. Many of our other follow-up visits were switched to telehealth: a safer, but not ideal alternative.
Then, we began to have hope again. The vaccines received FDA Emergency Use Authorization.
Several months ago, I was in an appointment with “Richard.” Richard was a 45-year-old Italian-American construction worker, a father of three (four if you counted Gerald, his family’s new labradoodle puppy—which I did), and a devoted husband to his wife, Sherri, his high-school sweetheart. Unfortunately, none of these descriptors explained why he and I were in the same exam room. That was because I am a medical oncology scribe. I write notes for an oncologist. Richard was our patient: a former smoker receiving treatment for Stage IV lung cancer.