Friday, April 8, 2011

It's personal

We have a regular patient who is getting on in years.  She has a variety of medical issues, and when we get called to her house, the immediate problem could be any one or more of those things.

She is one of my very favorite patients.  Partly because she is such a sweet person. And partly because I don't expect to ever reach her age, and it impresses the heck out of me that she is still going.  We're talking three digits.

We had a call there recently that is representative of one of my favorite kinds of calls.

We were called for something we hadn't been called there for before. A new issue?  Or what?
Turns out that because I know this patient, and am familiar with her various difficulties, I was able to pin down the actual problem rapidly, and then was able to communicate a LOT of information to the medics, so she could get the care she needed promptly.  I knew where to look, and how to tie everything together, how to make sense of the information I was getting.

To top it off, I was able to talk to the patient and keep everything relaxed.  This was particularly great because she isn't always able to hold a conversation, and I really enjoyed being able to have that chat.

None of this happened by chance.

Partly, it's one of the benefits of being at almost every call.  If there are repeat patients, I'll have seen them before, and be at least somewhat familiar with them.

But mostly, it has to do with a habit I got into right from the beginning.
Whenever we have a call, when I get home, I do some research.

Is there anything about this patient's presentation that I haven't seen before?
Signs or symptoms with which I am not familiar?
A condition I don't know much about?
Any findings from my assessment that I don't understand?
Anything the medic said or did that suggests something I should learn?

I look things up.  Read about them.  We discuss them.

I want to be able to provide a higher quality of service the next time I see a patient- and I almost always assume we'll see them again.  When we do, I want to know more about what ails them.  I want to know more about what their needs are.  I want to learn something from every patient contact.

So I have my own little highly personalized training plan going on. Tailored to the needs of our actual patients.

Even if it's something we see a lot of, I'll still refresh my memory.
And sometimes, if there's a patient we HAVEN'T seen for a while, I'll look up their medical conditions, so I don't forget by the time we see them again.

I tried to make a list once, of the various concerns people in the district have, and it started to be a long list. It's turned into a fairly decent way to keep myself refreshed on a lot of things.

And once in a while, it really pays off.  I'm able to pick up on something I might not have considered based only on what the chief complaint is.

That's the way it should be.

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