It’s been a hectic summer. My family has traveled some and we spent a week at the beach. Between the two vacations, though, my office was busy–very busy. For years we have striven to do more checkups during the summer but recently The Children’s Care Network (TCCN) has gotten in on the act in an effort to increase wellness visits, immunizations, and appropriate screenings, especially among adolescents. I like working hard and being busy. It makes the day go by quickly and gives you a “good” tired at the end of the day—fatigue accompanied by a sense of accomplishment.
Healthcare is always changing; however, recently it feels like the changes are accelerating. In the past couple of years we’ve had to change electronic medical records with all the myriad details that required, adopted ICD-10, completed all the work for PCMH certification (awaiting my government overlord’s gold stamp of approval), accomplished several quality improvement initiatives from TCCN, preparing to start electronic virtual visits for medication management, and applied for a yellow fever certificate in order to start a travel clinic. Whew! It’s been exhausting.
There is a lot of talk about physician burnout. There are articles in the literature, letters to medical editors, talks at medical meetings, etc about physicians just quitting and walking away. Physician suicide is a real concern among my colleagues. I’ve always thought I’m immune to that but it has occurred to me, with all of this striving and long hours of work, that I was exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally. That’s why I was so looking forward to a week at the beach. Sun, surf, walking on the beach, reading all day, seafood for dinner. Could life get any better? It was pretty much everything I needed to rest and recover.
When the week came to an end, I spent the last few hours just contemplating and praying. I started with just thanking Jesus for the time to rest but found myself asking about the coming week. It’s both a blessing and a curse that I am always planning. What do I need to do next? What are the steps to that goal? How can I improve?
At the end of the last day on the beach, I gathered my paraphernalia and headed up to the condo. After rinsing all the sand off, I decided to do a few laps in the pool. I was alone in a large indoor pool and did just enough laps to get a little fatigue in my chest when I stopped to rest. A young family was getting in. Dad was holding a beautiful nine month old. The parents sat in the shallow end and passed the infant back and forth. She was smiling, laughing, and generally having a great time. It was a joy to see. I found myself smiling at them and remembering why I love my job.
It had been nine days since I had had an office visit with a kid. This little event, watching the parents and child in the pool just loving and enjoying each other was a vivid reminder of how much I love the fundamentals of my job. The whole scene felt like a gift from Jesus and a reminder that I have the greatest job and earth. Thank you Jesus for this.