Photo Credit: Conner Tarter
Each day follows the same theme: put on my white coat, scan my patient list while I quickly down my coffee and then the silent bell goes off triggering me to start my day. I am a primary care practitioner in a rural setting. Most days, lunch passes me by because food is second to the long list of tasks that lie ahead. After all 30 patients have been seen and my day finally comes to an end, I find myself standing in front of my computer screen which is covered in colorful post-its. I see names, numbers, and a few words which summarize questions or concerns. When I think my day is over, the phone calls are just beginning. It's 5:00 and I'm tired. I text my husband, “Sorry, I’m running a little late again. I’ll keep you posted”.
I have found myself struggling during those long days when I simply cannot get out on time. It's tough telling your boss that you need to go, and it's apparent he doesn't always understand. It isn’t easy that my two sons are in daycare and I can't be late to pick them up. My husband can sometimes duck out of work early on short notice, but it’s still not easy for him. The daycare doesn’t care if my last patient was late or if there was a patient that needed to be squeezed in at the end of the day. I find myself torn between the needs of my patients and the needs of my family.
While most of my PA friends have set schedules and relief when their shift is over, the outpatient setting does not function the same way. My last patient is generally scheduled at 4:30, and they are given a 15 minute grace period. These 15 minutes can be the most daunting minutes especially when I have family obligations. Needless to say, we've never turned a patient away who arrived 16 minutes late. Cars stall and appointment time confusion occurs but this all directly impacts me.
That being said, on days like this, I remind myself that I chose to become a Physician Assistant to serve people. I am blessed with the ability to aid in healing, help those who are suffering, and make a significant difference in peoples’ lives. This is my passion, and all of the stress aside, primary care shortage in the rural setting is only becoming worse. I don't see myself on any other path.
Thank you for your contribution P.L. - PA-C