Feet First

“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Tuesday, June 17, 2008
    Send Me Back to the Office

    Traditionally the practice of medicine and working from home have never gone together (except in the old-fashioned situation where the doctor's office is located in his or her home, an arrangement rarely seen these days). Thanks to electronic medical records and Citrix, I have been able to try this concept out for the first time in my life. I now am able to access lab results and telephone notes from home via my computer, which comes in handy with my (now) four-day workweek.

    The thing about working from home is this: I don't think the "working" part is emphasized enough. The phrase "working from home" is too often uttered in tones that imply perfect freedom and efficiency. The whole idea has become some sort of Holy Grail... the peace, the lack of meetings, the freedom to get up and get a snack whenever you want, working in your pajamas...

    ...the feeling that you're marooned on a desert island and the rest of the world has forgotten about you. Okay, maybe that last part is just me. Truth is, I have found working from home to be more difficult than I imagined it would be. Going from a very schedule-driven workday to being completely on your own can be difficult if you aren't used to it. How often should I check my messages? How do I force myself to write that disability letter for a patient that I've been putting off for two weeks because their chart is two inches thick and their history is more complicated than the plot of War and Peace? What's going to stop me from surfing the Net or IM'ing everybody I know instead of working?

    These aren't unusual questions, I know. Every business section of every paper in the country has probably done an article on this topic. I had to write about it because when I first tried working at home I felt as if I'd gone from a blissful 80 mph on the interstate to a frustrating 10 mph on a back road, stuck behind a tractor. It's humiliating when your staff has to warn you to keep out of the office on your day out.

    "We have a locum tomorrow, Doctor. He's going to be using your office." So stay the hell away, is the implication.

    Despite my grousing, have I given up my free day and gone back to the office? Of course not. After a grinding Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday it's a respite to know I don't have to leap out of bed at 5 a.m. Thursday. And it's extremely helpful to have an unscheduled day when, as last week, I had to call the plumber to fix a leak. And my house is getting steadily cleaner and more organized. Faced with that disability letter I found myself willingly, nay, eagerly cleaning out the back bedroom, boxing junk and taking it to Goodwill. I even wash windows. I have cleaned the refrigerator. I find that a task I absolutely loathe is exactly what I need to get stuff done around the house. (Yes, I did eventually finish the letter, too.)

    Sometimes I even blog. I started this entry last week... on my day off.




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