May 12, 2017 by unclespike218
Tonight is gonna be a tough, lonely night, professionally speaking.
For an introductory synopsis, head here. Or here’s the TL; DR: Being a naturopathic doctor who probably wasn’t meant to be a naturopathic doctor in the first place really sucks.
In a nutshell, my medical career went like this. 2006-2008: working totally on my own. 2008-2010: an independent contractor for another chiropractor in a match made in hell. 2010-2014: working on my own but in an office setting with shared central space, receptionists, and a very pleasant and mutualistic environment with fellow practitioners. All three situations were…well, failures insofar as I couldn’t sustain long-term patients out of them, and as of August of 2014, I had officially closed shop and left the health care profession for good.
Fast forward three scant years. My relationship with Mr. Man is over, and I am clearing out my stuff and trying to get rid of things that are no longer necessary in my life. I expect to be moving someplace much smaller than the 4500 square foot manse on the prairie we moved to eight years ago, so minimalism and ruthless decluttering are the terms du jour. As Mr. Man pointed out, an awful lot of what is downstairs is medical stuff that I need to go through. So I, in my typical piecemeal fashion (hey…it’s slow, but it does work), have chosen to go through a box a day to get through everything. Some boxes have been easy (a box full of printer paper? Something I can take to the office and don’t need to buy? Manna from heaven!), and some…well…not. (What do I do with expensive textbooks that may or may not be worthwhile? Goodwill? A used bookstore? Ebay? Or just recycle ’em?)
Tonight’s task: go through patient charts and get rid of those that are over seven years old, as per the last visit date. This task has been disturbingly simple. From phase 1 of my career, every chart qualifies. I don’t think I have one with more than five visits charted. It’s terribly depressing. What’s worse is that when I read through the notes, I see evidence of a bright, optimistic, talented, intelligent, and very insightful young doctor who, because of these patient visit trends, is growing slowly more and more disillusioned and depressed by the day. Lab tests were run and analyzed. Visits were assiduously documented. Referrals were made. The correct supplements were prescribed. Improvements – some astounding – were noted. Some setbacks took place as well; they always will in any practice. And what’s really sad is the frequent notes: patient did not show up for scheduled appointment; called and left message. Or patient called and stated that she would like to reschedule sometime later this summer. Sometimes I wrote long, strangely positive letters that started with I am sorry you have chosen to terminate your professional relationship with me, then went into great detail analyzing the results of lab work we would have chatted about on our next visit, and wished the patient well.
There’s a bevy of reasons why I could never make my practice work, and I won’t belabor them at this point. But as a whole, going through these patient charts and shredding the ones that have passed the sell-by date will not be easy. Some, individually, won’t bother me at all. But it’s the ones where either I did make a world of difference, or was on the cusp of it, that will. It’s the evidence of a positive working relationship with a patient that made my day, or a life-changing result in someone’s health, that will see part of me shredded along with the chart note. And the fact that I really cared for these patients – took a lot of time to research their case and do my utmost to come up with the best treatment plans for them within my power – will soon be reduced to unreadable ribbons of paper, gone forever. This is what’s going to hurt. And no one will know or feel this pain but me. Not even my patients, who have all moved on. But it will be an acute pain that will soon die to a very dull ache for what I thought and felt, so strongly, could have been.