Walking to the clinic, I pass a school where children gather in their crisp school uniforms. I admire their superhero lunchboxes, beaded purses, and colorful barrettes; I notice how tightly the younger children hold their older siblings’ hands. Next I pass an abandoned church, with stained-glass windows that shine on a sunny day, with wildflowers and weeds covering its front yard, with its earth-colored stone walls.
Arriving at the clinic, I admire my patients’ homes, standing out boldly among the drug houses. They are painted bright colors, and many have yards full of flowers and vegetables.
“Estoy cansada,” my client says as she drops onto my couch, settling herself inside the dip that holds her body every week.
I close the door to my therapy office and sit across from her. “I’m sorry you are tired, Anita. Tell me about your week,” I say. Then I sit quietly until she is able to focus.
She tells me that she sleeps all day, that her body hurts everywhere, and that her adult son never visits her despite the sacrifices she made to keep him fed and clothed growing up.
With a crisp gesture, sharp as the crack of a whip, the nurse sends the curtain rings skittering along the track, separating the bed on one side of the room from the other. The doctor does it more sedately, pulling the curtain along as if walking an aging dog, chatting to calm an anxious patient as she does. Either way, the object seems to be patient privacy.
Even when the curtains are drawn tightly enough to prevent a sliver of a glimpse of the person within, the task inevitably fails. There can be no real privacy
I treat a lot of patients with multiple disabilities, like cerebral palsy and epilepsy, so things get complicated when they are admitted to the hospital. The parents have to deal with multiple rounding teams who come into the room at unpredictable times.
One such parent told me how she had solved the problem of dealing with surgeons who would not answer her questions. Her child’s surgeons often rounded at an ungodly hour in the early morning when no one was awake, spent a few minutes in the room and then moved on. By the time the
My patient walked into the exam room, expressionless, her shoulders hunched. Her last blood pressure reading had been high.
I gently closed the door. “Good morning,” I said. “My name is Esther, and I am an RN. How are you today?”
“I am OK, I guess.”
“You are here for a BP check. May I check it?”
“Sure, why not.”
When the ambulance doors shut, a fertile silence is wrought as patient and paramedic situate into the tight, mobile quarters. The patient, strapped backwards on the gurney like a carnival ride, stares upward at bright lights and cabinetry chock-full of colorful medication boxes. As the ambulance takes off toward the hospital, the paramedic begins an ataxic dance, hopping and twisting over blood pressure cords, pulse oximetry, heart monitor leads and IV tubing.
Patients may not be as forthcoming around large numbers of family, bystanders or medical personnel, but the atmosphere in the back of the ambulance
During my fifteen years as a health educator and project manager for a large HMO, I met frequently with the physicians, managers and medical staff in their offices. Sometimes these were formal meetings, and sometimes I just dropped by to run through an idea or check out a procedure. Perhaps we met to work on a new outreach program. Or perhaps I gave an in-service about the databases we used to track patients with chronic conditions. Even though the doors between the waiting areas and the offices and exam rooms were locked, many of the receptionists
Something doesn’t feel quite right these days. I’m in-between, hanging in the wind, waiting for the next set of closed doors to open, for what lies behind those doors to emerge. The earth moved from winter through solstice into spring, yet temperatures still dip. Which jacket and shoes to wear? How many blankets are needed at night? We just sprang the clock ahead, but I haven’t yet adjusted and my sleep is off. A big birthday lies ahead and I want to get into celebratory mode, but I still dwell in this decade, which was capped
This month, I had the opportunity to be a vaccinator at COVID-19 mass vaccination clinics. Volunteering at these clinics, referred to as PODs (Points of Dispensing), was a welcome shift from my daily life as a family medicine resident. This was my opportunity to see public health in action.