Life in Da City! · Protect and Serve · Sometimes You Get to Think That You Have Accomplished Something!

Proud Poppa Moment

Thank you, ERJ, for the inspiration for another blog post. One of your commenters to your post about the fiscal consequences of “kicking the (payroll and benefits) can down the road”, and the implications of same for actually MAINTAINING a given level of government/police/fire/EMS services, presented the following:

“I suspect another reason for services eroding is lack of employees.
I know that many police departments have openings for lack of qualified candidates, as do many county agencies. Whether their qualification requirements are reasonable is another question. I know that some places intentionally understaff so that existing staff can easily justify overtime, occasionally to a ridiculous degree.”

This ties in, very neatly, to a conversation I had with The Darling Daughter the other weekend. She was talking to somebody with whom she works, this somebody being involved in some manner with providing EMS services. This Somebody (hereinafter referred to as “TS”) was sharing with her the difficulty of obtaining personnel to staff ambulances, in the numbers required to provide ambulances, 24/7/365/surge capacity in the event if BFD emergency.

The Darling Daughter (to be referenced as “TDD”) pointed out that she spent her childhood in the household of a medic, and noted to her correspondent that “You DO know, that McDonalds is paying more than you are, right?”

That elicited an observation about insurance company reimbursement for ambulance transport (TL:DR: meager), and the difficulties that provides in paying personnel more.

TDD noted that for mothers who might contemplate a career Fighting Disease, And Saving Lives, child care, and in particular child care after 5 pm, is AN ISSUE.

Her correspondent, TS, was reported to have metaphorically waved his hands, responding “I KNEW you were going to bring up child care!”

I agreed with TDD, noting that should a crew pick up a transfer to, say Ann Arbor at something like 3 pm, (the drive alone is on the order of 90 minutes, one way, from, oh, let’s pick a town at random: Eaton Rapids, and Sparrow Eaton Hospital. Not mentioned is unload time, as well as the drive back, restocking the rig, and tootling home.), then Our Heroine is looking at being, maybe, in the parking lot of University of Michigan Medical Center, heading home if she is fortunate, just about the time that her day care provider is beginning to blow up her phone with warnings of five-dollar-a-MINUTE late charges for EACH of her children, now that she is late.

At a pay that compares, sort of, with minimum wage.

So, hell YEAH, child care is an issue.

She (TDD) then noted to TS, that there does not appear to be any sort of career ladder for EMS. So far as she knew, it went something like

Basic EMT–>Paramedic–>Do Something Else.

She relates that this sort of issue might adversely affect retention. Which will, as a readily foreseeable follow on effect, “thin the herd” of individuals entering that pipeline. Leading to just this conversation.

Another Proud Poppa Moment!

Fun And Games · Fun And Games Off Duty · Life in Da City! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Gotta Scratch That Itch!

A week or two ago, my MA returned from her lunch, and showed me her parking lot find: a couple of dirty syringes, with bent needles. “I found them on the ground behind my tire”, she related.

My thoughts were, ‘what sort of fool, even among the universe of fools who inject drugs, leaves a freaking needle on the ground in a parking lot, where children come and go on their way to their own physician appointments?’

@

So, just the other day, TDW-Mark II needed to recharge her cash card. Off to her bank we went. The gentleman attending to her transaction appeared to be somewhere in his twenties, whereas I, myself, am approaching 70 (and so closely approaching 70, that 70 has started to tap his brakes, and slow down, in hopes that I would not admire his bumper so closely anymore!).

TDW was making conversation with this gentleman, and he was owning that this sort of transaction was unfamiliar to him. TDW then up and chirps, “It must be hard on poor elderly people, who don’t have computers, or know how to use them! That whole smart phone, and computer banking thing can be rough on the elderly!”

I looked at her for a moment, and spoke up. “Am I not standing right here? You CAN see me, right? Really? I. Am. Right. Here!”

Fun And Games · Life in Da City!

SNIPPETS

To be honest, y’all, I present snippets when the fountain of (I certainly hope…) entertaining stories has run a bit slowly, or I have collected several thought fragments which do not inspire an entire blog post. So, with that in mind, here is my latest installment of snippets.

Conversation with a child of Ghawd: “What makes your cough worse?” “What do you mean, ‘worse’?” (never mind: I now know that the answer is “nothing”.)

My mornings: I set the alarm for 0700, in order to get up, get around, and get to work. Kitty wants to play, at 0600.

I wonder if it would save me a lot of pointless conversation should I get a tattoo on my non dominant arm, saying, “Good talk! Here’s your Z-Pak! Have a nice day!”

Triaging one night as an RN, chucklehead enters bitching nonstop, “Stupid hospital! Stupid doctors! Stupid…” “Yes, ma’am, and I am likely the dumbest one here!” “But, you’re a nurse! You cannot be a nurse, and be stupid!” “Yet, ma’am, here I am, as are you! Now, what brought to us tonight?”

”I am going to prescribe an antibiotic for you. What pharmacy do you use?” “I don’t use any pharmacy. I never get sick.” (sigh) “So, what pharmacy are you going to go to, when you do go looking for your antibiotic?”

Overheard conversation among the MA staff: “So, he and I used to ride the bus together!” (I interject) “Is THAT what you kids call it, nowadays?”

When your MA starts report with, “So this guy, almost a year ago…”, you know that whatever follows is very likely to be some sort of cluster.

One day, I will snap, and I will write the following off work note: “Cletus was seen today in clinic. He is released to return to work after the heat death of the universe.”

Duty · Fun And Games Off Duty · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Life in Da City! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

9-1-1 Follies

So, TINS, TIWFDASL…. er, well, OK: I was NOT FDASL, rather, this was long, long ago, and far, far away, and Doug, my partner, had his car in the shop, and so I picked him up, and we went to headquarters in order to pick up our paychecks.

I was driving him home, and we were chatting about inconsequentials, when I had stopped at a traffic light. Coming from our right, a soul had stopped in order to make a right turn, and once he attempted to make his turn, another idiot (wait for it!) had stepped out in front of the vehicle.

The driver slammed on his brakes, and chastised the pedestrian-idiot (who had not been paying attention), whereupon the pedestrian rejoined with some unwelcome insights about the driver’s mother, and her lifestyle choices.

The driver exited his vehicle, displaying a knife (that was clearly visible from across the street!), and chasing the pedestrian. He (the driver) was bellowing, “You sunovabitch! I could have killed you!”, as the pedestrian retreated around the parked vehicle, retreating for his life.

Just past this dance, was a pair of pay telephones (remember them? Another artifact from my youth!). Doug went to one, and dialed 9-1-1, and I took the other, deposited some change, and called our dispatch Bell line.

My call got answered first. Ronnie the dispatcher answered my call, took my information, and passed it to another dispatcher. Then, he chastized me.

“Mcfee, you DO get, that you are off duty. Right? Why don’t you let the other guys get some excitement, for a change?”

I laughed, said my goodbyes, and hung up.

Doug was still awaiting 9-1-1 to answer his call.

We got back in my car, and drove on.

Fun And Games Off Duty · guns · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Life in Da City! · Pre Planning Your Scene · Sometimes You Get to Think That You Have Accomplished Something!

SNIPPETS V

STORY THE FIRST

So, TINS, TIWFDASL, just a couple of weeks ago, and, as I entered the room, I was greeted by the younger of the two women seated in the exam room. “There he is! You saved my mother’s life!”

While that certainly was a welcome greeting, I admitted that I was confused. The younger woman, evidently the daughter, filled in the missing pieces. Several weeks previously, she (the narrator) had accompanied her mother (the other soul in the room while we conversed) to a visit to our clinic. She (the mother) had been having a cough of some sort, and I had felt that something in the experience did not sound right. After some assessment in clinic, I had sent the mother to ED, and those worthies had identified a 100% occlusion of one of mom’s coronary arteries (the arteries feeding the heart). Mother had received a stent, and been sent home, and was still among us. Indeed, she was here, today, due to another cough.

Thankfully, today’s cough appeared uncomplicated, and I recommended my usual measures to ameliorate the post nasal drip that seemed to be the source of the cough.

Sometimes I get to think that I really do, from time to time, positively impact people’s lives. That’s nice to think.

STORY, THE SECOND.

Just the other day, I was shopping. Such is the life of a life saving, disease fighting, internet blogging champion (of sorts). As it develops, I am middling tall: 5-7 or so. It turns out that the pasta I was hunting for was on the top shelf, and several other people had purchased some, before me. THAT meant that I could just barely not reach the boxes. I had just realized that I, a tool using animal, could open my knife and extend my reach, tipping over the needed number of boxes, and add same to my cart. That is, I had just realized it, when a gentleman, taller than I, reached up, grabbed a box, and handed it to me, asking me if I needed more.

I requested two more, and thanked him, moving forward with my shopping.

A few aisles over I observed a woman attempting to retrieve an item from a shelf beyond her reach. Before I could respond, another (taller) gentleman stepped up, retrieved the sought item, and handed it to her.

Everyday, plain folks, acts of civility and kindness.

STORY, THE THIRD

We visited my wife’s sister, and her husband, recently. They live in rural Kentucky, and it is rather a change from their previous neighborhood in Metropolis. Indeed, it is a considerable change from my table-flat neighborhood of Un-Named Flyover State.

We arrived, following the directions provided, and noted that the terrain was, well, “hilly” does not really do it justice. As a consequence of that terrain, roadways tend to meander, circling around this hill, or weaving their way up to, over, and down that ridge.

We had spent something like 45 minutes meandering , as the road took us up in elevation, when I noted a sign ahead, announcing “Curves Ahead!”.

I turned to TDW-Mark II, and exclaimed, “Wait, what? THAT was the STRAIGHT part?”

STORY, THE FOURTH: OOPS!

So, TINS, TIWFDASL, and, well, things had come to a slow down. I was working with a physician, on this day at this clinic, and she had never handled an adrenalin autoinjector. We had one handy, and I handed it to her so she could examine it.

I was not quite quick enough, to admonish her to not remove the guard, nor to handle the trigger, on the one end of the device. Therefore, she did, successfully, remove the cap, and then trigger it, sending the needle into one of her fingers, along with some of the adrenalin therein.

The Good News was that, since she was youthful, she promptly withdrew her hand, and therefore only received a fractional dose. The bad news is that adrenalin is a very, very powerful vasoconstrictor, and therefore her affected finger became very, very white, and also burned. Oh, yes, it burned. I cast about, wondering if we had any phentolamine. (an alpha blocker: used to reverse the effects of, among others, adrenalin, when injected into an end capillary bed, Like you would find in your fingers.) Since ours was not an ICU, nor an ED, we did not have phentolamine, nor anything that would serve.

The good news, such as it was, is that due to her youthful age, good health habits (spelled n-o-t s-m-o-k-i-n-g) and the fractional dose of adrenalin she had received, well, after around 20 minutes, her finger regained it’s color, the burning pain faded, and she returned to normal, simply just a bit more shaky than previously.

Subsequently, I obtained, and CONSPICUOUSLY labeled a trainer, specifically intended to harmlessly teach folks how to handle and operate an adrenalin autoinjector. This one has no needle, and no drug.

STORY, THE FIFTH

So, TINS, TIWFDASL….well, okay. I was NOT FDASL, rather, I was off, and, having accomplished all my chores (or, such fraction of “all my chores” as I was going to accomplish that day), my step son (son of TDW-Mark II) called. I had spoken to him about a range day, and he was off work that day, I was off work that day, and it was off to the range we went.

I took my Garand, my .380 pistol, and my 9 mm pistol. Of course, I grabbed the ammo can labeled 30-06 (for the Garand), .380 (surprisingly enough, for the pistol in caliber .380), and the ammo can labeled “9 mm” for, no doubt surprising, the 9 mm pistol.

Now, recall that I have been an RN for, lo, these many yeas. That I have passed uncounted thousands upon thousands of doses of medications, and double checked myself each time, so as to accomplish the “5 rights” of med pass: right patient, right drug, right dose, right route, and at the proper time. This was effected by reading the order, the med container, comparing each with the other, and then, DOING SO AGAIN.

So, we arrived at the range, uncased the Garand, and set up targets. Several dozen rounds later, we placed the rifle in the case, put the ammunition away, and took out the .380 pistol. Fun times.

When it came time to take out, and shoot, the 9 mm pistol, well, I went to the “9 mm” ammo can, opened it, and beheld something like 200 rounds of RIFLE AMMUNITION.

For those in the studio audience who are unfamiliar with Things Firearm, well, 9 mm is a pistol round, and rifle rounds are (a) the wrong size overall, (b) with the wrong projectile (bullet), propelled by (c) an entirely wrong charge of powder, leading to (d) entirely way, way more pressure once the cartridge is set off, for any common pistol to contain, meaning (e) should, somehow, a rifle cartridge be forced into the pistol that I had before me, anyone firing it, should they survive the resulting explosion, would forever after be known as “Lefty”.

Not mentioning the emotional distress I would experience should this pistol, one of my favorites, be reduced to shrapnel.

Sigh. It appears that I had horribly failed the ammunition labeling process, leading to jovial kidding from my step son. Other than that, a good day at the range.

And, the ammunition got re-(and correctly)-labeled.

cats · Fun And Games Off Duty · Life in Da City!

SNIPPETS PART IV

I hope that nobody is surprised to learn that, since The Un-Named Fly-Over State is in the northern tier of states, it snows here in the winter (And the fall. And the spring.) That has been the case for certainly the past nearly 70 years that I have been here. Therefore I would hope that my neighbors would have figured that shit out, by now.

On the other hand, there is abundant evidence that my hope in this matter is misplaced.

So, TINS, TIWFDASL…well, OK, I was driving in to work one snowy winter day in order to begin my day of FDASL. I was listening to the amateur radio in my vehicle, and monitoring the county’s fire department dispatch. No ill tidings from that front.

I did notice a car off the road, into the ditch, but I figured that the county deputy already on the scene had things well in hand.

So, there I was, listening to the FM radio, and waiting for any alarming traffic on the HAM radio, when I saw this guy, no shit, skate his compact pickup truck completely across the 3 lanes of expressway traffic, having apparently originated from the on ramp. My guess was that he had entered the ramp at speed that was excessive for the conditions. (did I mention that it had snowed the preceding night? Well, it had. Likely had something to do with the other guy in the ditch.)

Anyhow, once he reached the median shoulder, he started to wifferdill his way along that shoulder, inching his way into the median’s ditch. He did manage to stay upright, so, that was nice…..

The thought crossed my mind, “coefficient of friction: words to live by!”

@@@Snippet The Second@@@

You may recall my tales of cat-herding (Farming? Wrangling?). In any event, one of the cats had a recurring conjunctivitis, such that our local vet voiced concern regarding the potential of a ruptured globe (eyeball breach, with vision-destroying loss of the fluid-vitreous and aqueous humor that is within the eyeball), versus a vision damaging occurrence of scars on the (supposed to be) clear portion of the eyeball.

So, we arranged an appointment with a veterinary ophthalmologist.

Of course, this doctor practiced in an office something like three counties over from our home. Of course, on the appointed day, it was a balmy 33 degrees (f), and could not decide to snow, rain, sleet, or what.

Fun times.

I learned on this trip, that driving Trixie T. Cat anywhere, was very much akin to driving your small, furry, outspoken, elderly, mother-in-law somewhere. I was the recipient of a running series of corrections, spoken (of course) in Cat, that likely would have sounded like “You’re driving too fast!”, “You’re driving too slow!”, “Why can’t you stay in one lane?” (this as I signaled, eased over into the -clear-adjacent lane, and in the course of doing so, ran over the ridge of slush built up between the lanes. So the truck jerked.), “Why aren’t we there yet?”, and the ever popular, “Where the hell are you taking me? I don’t want to go there! Let me out of this damned cat carrier!”

That is, would have sounded like that, if I spoke Cat.

As you might imagine, first off, back seat driving is oh, so very welcome at any time at all. Secondly, such corrections are even more welcome when the driving is, oh, gosh, I dunno, HAZARDOUS! Thirdly, let me take a moment to congratulate TDW-Mark II. She successfully suppressed her baseline impulses to shriek, gasp, or otherwise demonstrate her appreciation of her/our impending DOOM! Probably figured that the cat had that well covered.

Life in Da City! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Everybody Brings Sunshine Into My Life….

From time to time, I determine that an antibiotic will be helpful in resolving whatever ill is present in my patient. For example, folks with dental infections, and who are not allergic to beta lactam antibiotics (those related to penicillin), get amoxicillin. It is what our dental colleagues have directed me to employ as first line, and pretty nearly always gets the job done.

So, TINS, TIWFDASL, and my patient-du-jour had a dental infection. I presented my spiel, winding up with the observation that I would be sending over a prescription for amoxicillin.

This soul stated that they had received amoxicillin several years ago, and “it didn’t work”.

May I step back for a little bit of dental anatomy? Any surgeon (and, dentists are surgeons of a particular specialty) will tell you that antibiotics are wasted on any abscess, due to the fact that the overwhelming majority of the pathogens are afloat in the pus filling the abscess, and, since no abscess has any sort of circulatory system, any antibiotic will only make it to the periphery of the lesion, and not the the seat. Indeed, surgeons generally are of the opinion (an opinion probably developed during years of residency and 20,000 to 40,000 hours of patient contact) that the foundation of resolving an abscess is to drain the abscess. That will both greatly, greatly reduce the population of germs remaining to cause mischief, but also place those germs in close proximity to tissue that, indeed, has circulation, and therefore provide the antibiotic the ability to access, and damage, the germs.

GUM abscesses are potentially susceptible to intervention by clinicians such as I myself am. TOOTH abscesses, including dental pulp and/or dental root infections, are immune to my attentions.

Therefore, plausibly, this soul’s historic experience with amoxicillin could have been due to the infection remaining inaccessible to the antibiotic.

Back to my story. This child of God requested “something stronger” than amoxicillin.

Two competing thoughts sprang into my mind: First, amoxicillin is the drug of choice. Prescribing something else is akin to purchasing a full ton passenger van to transport your gravel, because “big vans are stronger!”, or something. Really, using the proper tool for the job makes so much more sense.

Secondly, there are several reasons why clinicians do not simply “prescribe something stronger”. One if them is NOT that we are all assholes, who want people to be/stay sick. Rather, for example, gentamicin is used all the time in ICUs for patients who are terribly sick. (wonder if that has anything to do with the reason that they are in ICU to begin with?) These folks get regular blood draws, to be sure that the concentration of drug in the blood is within certain bounds. Too little, and it is less effective than needed. Too much, and deafness and/or kidney failure can result, among other bad things.

So, for certain values of “stronger”, gentamicin is, indeed, “stronger”. On the other hand, deafness as a consequence of your long delayed dental care appears, to me, to be a risk out of proportion to the anticipated benefit. Particularly when I can anticipate the same benefit, with rare risk, from, gosh, er, um, oh, I dunno, AMOXICILLIN.

Back to my story, backing away, a little, from my rant-du-jour: I asked this soul what antibiotic had been beneficial, for past dental infections?

The answer, I swear to Crom, was, “I don’t know. You’re the doctor, don’t you know?”

Words. They fail me.

Fun And Games Off Duty · Life in Da City! · Pre Planning Your Scene · Sometimes You Get to Think That You Have Accomplished Something!

THE PLAINTIFF AND THE HOUSE.

Long ago, and far, far away, I was sitting in a conference room with my attorney, The Plaintiff, as well as her attorney. We were discussing asset distribution. Her attorney announced that THEIR plan was that we sell the house, split the proceeds, and ride off into the sunset, separately.

Okay, that deserves some context. We had purchased that house something like 8 months prior to this conversation, it was in 2008 (remember those days? Housing values were plummeting like a drunken frat boy off a second floor porch), and we had obtained a “zero down” mortgage. I had kept an eye on housing values, and had noted that this house was worth less than considerably less than owed on the mortgage. We also had, between us, a camper trailer that had been paid off. I suggested, instead, that she take the house (simply so our boys would have their home, in a stable manner), and I would take the camper. I added that she could then, when she deemed it proper, she could sell that house, and keep all the proceeds. Alternately, as I observed, she could consider the market, and realize that the house was worth considerably less that what was owed. In that event, I would accept no responsibility for that shortfall. And, I’d take the camper.

Her attorney was aghast. “You cannot tell me that the house is worth as much as the camper!”

I said, “No, I am not telling you that the camper is worth as much as the house. In my appraisal the camper is worth considerably more than the house, but, it is about what your client wants, after all, isn’t it?”

To make a long story short(er), I kept the house, she got the camper, and no money changed hands in this matter.

Duty · Fun And Games Off Duty · Fun With Suits! · Gratitude · Life in Da City!

Snippets Part III

I have a flexible spending account at work, so as to be able to pay my copays, deductibles, and suchlike with pre tax dollars. Late last year, I noticed that the card by which such expenditures were paid for, was getting declined. I assumed that I had spent all the money and thought no further of it.

Then, I began to get messages from the administrators of the account. Finally rousing myself to speak to them, I learned that the card had been frozen, because, I was informed, they required hard copy receipts for 3 or 4 of my expenditures. This included purchases from my optometrist for, oh, gosh, GLASSES, as well as at the podiatrist, for TDW-Mark II’s ingrown toenail.

It puzzled me, Visa, nor Mastercard never had such issues. I assumed that, just like the commercial banks, that the electronic billing that led to the vendor of, say, my gasoline, getting paid, had all the information required, kind of like a grocery store receipt.

Perhaps I was wrong. Or, perhaps, somewhere in this favoured land, folks go to their podiatrist, or their optometrist, when they feel the need for hookers and blow. (I wouldn’t know, myself, and Hunter Biden was not available to comment on that possibility) So, I guess, I will have to remain puzzled.

@@

Occasionally, I am humbled. Just the other day, I had such an opportunity. The lady bringing the pre school aged children in for whatever their complaint that day, was approximately my age (and, I am by no means of child rearing age. Hell, my youngest grandchild is already in primary school!) She reported, in the course of the conversation, that “My husband and I both got them when they were very, very young.”

Just, matter of fact. No inflection, dry fact.

As I was charting later, I noted that the parent was identified as the grandparent.

So, let’s contemplate that. Some of us are anticipating retirement, with few responsibilities, plenty of free time, and no pressing concerns.

Others, around us, are raising a SECOND family, at our ages, and not flinching.

Some of us are facing demands of duty, and stepping up to those demands, and in doing so are protecting, and nurturing, the most vulnerable among us.

@@

So This Is No Shit (TINS), There I was Fighting Disease And Saving Lives (FDASL), long, long ago and far, far away.

Well, okay. REEEAAALLLLYYYY!, I was shopping in Farmer Jack, in Da City, on one of my off duty from EMS days. I was pushing my shopping cart down one aisle or another, occasionally consulting my shopping list, and a fellow approached me.

He greeted me. “Hey! I know you!”

I did not just recently develop my aversion to Humanity. I spent years perfecting it. “Uh, no, you don’t, sir.”

He, on the other hand, was undeterred. “No, I know you! You work for the fire department!”

“You have the wrong guy!”

“No, really! I remember you  You saved my brother’s life!”

“Yep! That’s me! That’s how I spend my days! How is your brother?”

Fun With Suits! · Life in Da City! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Snippets, again

@@ Please, do NOT tell me that Bonine is 125 (or 12.5: she was not speaking clearly) milligrams, over the counter. I happen to know that OTC Bonine is Meclizine 25 mg, the same strength anti vertigo medication I prescribe as Antivert, and I know this for reasons. These reasons include (a) I kinda went to school for this stuff, (b) I prescribe Antivert/Meclizine several times a week, (c) TDW and I enjoy taking cruises, and she is somewhat susceptible to seasickness. Therefore, I am familiar with Bonine in it’s seasickness/motion sickness indication. Therefore I purchase it, OTC. Ya know, like last week. (d) When I acquire a medication, I (pay attention now! This one weird trick will help you manage your medicines!) RTFL. (Read The Freaking Label). (e) I have a functioning memory, not blown out by continuous applications of high serum levels of cannabinoids. Therefore I can remember this stuff, along with other stuff I find useful.

Finally, please, Please, PLEASE! Consider the possibility that I, indeed, am trying to both help you, as well as make your life easier.

The above is my internal monologue, which is considerably lengthier than my first pass response, also stifled, of “Hmm. Weird. Ok, then, don’t take it. Good talk. Have a nice day! Buh-bye, now!”

@@ So, TINS, TIWFDASL, as an ED nurse, long ago and far away. It came to pass that my manager invited me to join her in her office, where she told me that several of my colleagues had come to her, concerned with what they esteemed to be my taking overly long to triage patients.

For those in the studio audience who do not know, “triage”, in the ED setting, is the process wherein a nurse interviews the patient to elicit chief complaint (“What motivated you to come to ER tonight?”), history of present illness (“How long have you been ill? What have you done to address it? How did that work for you?”), allergies/medications/history, and vital signs. In the course of that conversation, the goal is to identify unstable folks, and truck them right back to care, and differentiate them from stable folks (like a broken limb with intact downstream circulation), and invite those folks to be patient.

I asked my manager how long I was taking, on average, to triage? This information ought to be readily available from our electronic medical record system.

“I don’t know.” was her reply.

I asked how my triage times compared to the average of my peers.

“I don’t know.”

I asked if the acuity of the patients I triaged was similar, greater, or less than the average of my peers.

“I don’t know.”

I asked if the complexity of the patients I triaged differed in any identifiable way from my peers (think psych requiring lots of redirection).

“I don’t know.”

I contemplated this for a second. “Wouldn’t it be a lot easier for me to improve, if I understood the manner in which I am falling behind my peers? I had thought that one of the advantages of an EMR was the ease with which just this sort of information could be abstracted.”

@@ In my clinic, folks who are currently afflicted with covid, or who fail the screening interview/temperature taking, get seen as “covid + other” patients. They are invited to wait for their turn in their vehicles (or, in nice weather, outside), rather than in our waiting room. Inasmuch as we are a walk in clinic, there are no appointments, and, if you are at the shag end of “The Wave”, well, you face a lengthy wait.

Some of these individuals drive off, thinking (not altogether wrongly) that a lengthy wait=an opportunity to get other stuff done.

The problem with this plan, is that, should a number of the other folks in line ahead of you, either spontaneously cure themselves, or decide, in essence, “F&@k this, I’m not all that sick”, and depart, your turn may arrive earlier than your errands anticipated. So, when the MA calls you on the phone number you provided today at registration, (a) it might be useful if you answered it, as well as (b) if the phone in question was actually in service.

Among the souls who successfully pass these two tests, there are those who respond, when told that their turn was at hand, and we (the MA) had some questions for them preparatory to actually seeing them in the office, “I can be there in 25 minutes!”

Well, that is kind of a fail. The MA will then tell them, “Sorry, we’ll call the next person on the list, who is here now. You will be at the bottom of the list, since leaving the line loses you your place in line.”