Duty · Fun With Suits! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact · Pre Planning Your Scene

FPC: Phenomenal Phone Company

A long, long time ago, in a state capitol city not so very far from here, I was seated in the basement of The Enormous Hospital System Mothership, where She Who Would Become TDW-Mark II was undergoing surgery of some sort. I was seated next to, well, let’s simply call him my father in law.

At this point in the celebrations, the divorce from The Plaintiff had concluded, and she and I had a week-on-and-week-off child custody arrangement. My adolescent children had cell phones, and had both me and their mother on speed dial.

So, Number Three Son had occasion to call me, but I could not make out what he had to say, and my attempts to re connect with him were for naught.

I did not know if this was generic adolescent ‘gotta call dad’, or something emergent. That latter was very unlikely, but, after all, I have kinda spent my life in the “this is sort of an emergency” business, and therefore considering that possibility is an occupational hazard. Therefore, since I was NOT at home, and, should my children need me, their ability to communicate that to me in a timely manner was mission critical, well, The Phone Company, and their inability to connect a freaking call something like 12 blocks from the freaking state freaking capitol, well, to understate the thing, I found it unsatisfactory.

Father In Law offered the use of his phone, on Another Carrier. I entered the number of my son, hit “connect”, and, par miracle’!, just like that, I was speaking to my son!

We concluded our conversation, since it was a generic “ought to call dad” call, and I asked Father In Law if I could make one more call. He assented.

I then called “customer service” (spit!) of The Phone Company. I explained my problem, and how this was not acceptable. Phone Company Minion asked my location, and I described myself as being one floor down from street level, in waiting lounge of Enormous Hospital System Mothership. Minion then regaled me with a bit of RF theory, to wit: “You cannot reasonably expect a cell phone to have a reliable signal when you are underground!”

I asked Minion, do you have caller id?

Affirmative.

Could you tell me the originating telephone number for this call we are having, right now?

He read back Father In Law’s phone number.

Is that a Phone Company number? If not, what carrier services that number.

Why do you ask?, responded the Minion.

“Because, that is the carrier who is henceforth going to be receiving checks from me approximating $200/month, because my phone, my childrens’ phones, and the phone of every mo$%#r f@!%&er who will stand still long enough to hear this story, will be giving their business to this carrier, whose phone I presently hold in my hand, in this basement, as you and I converse!”

Having said that, I realized that there is no satisfying way to slam down a cell phone. I miss plain old wired phones.

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!”

Duty · Fun And Games · Fun With Suits! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Moar! Random Thoughts!

The other day, I saw some soul, who was vexed by an itchy rash. I interviewed said soul, examined, and prescribed a steroid cream to soothe the rash. My instructions, in the prescription, were “Apply thin layer to rash twice a day”

Later that day, my MA fielded a call from the pharmacy inquiring where the rash was? (as in, I suppose, where on the patient’s body). I therefore had to complete the thought that I was charting on a completely different patient, find the chart for the patient, open that chart, review my note from several hours ago, and answer the query.

Foolishly, I had assumed (…yeah, I know. AssU-ME.) that “the rash” was specific enough, but, it seems, no…

In a similar vein, I continue to receive prior authorization requests. This is maddening, because (a) I typically attempt to prescribe the exact same thing previously prescribed. For, say, asthmatics, that means I attempt to prescribe the-flavor-of-the-month of albuterol inhalers. In addition, (b) years and years ago our Fly Over State Legislature passed legislation mandating substitution of generic, equivalent, medications unless the brand is specified, with the specific instruction of “dispense as written”. Silly me, I had supposed that when I prescribed albuterol, which is the generic name, that this generic substitution law would allow the pharmacist, who has access to the “menu special of the day” that the insurance company will subsidize, could then think, so to speak, “Hmm. McFee wants albuterol, but the insurance company will only subsidize Youcallwehaul brand of albuterol inhaler. Howzabout I simply fix that, and dispense the Youcallwehaul inhaler, just as if it were not a BRAND of ALBUTEROL, but, indeed could be considered equivalent to the generic albuterol inhaler that Our Hero had indeed prescribed?”

Had that occurred, I would not get a paper note spending pages and pages to tell me that the Useless Insurance Company Inc., would not pay for the generic inhaler, but would, rather, pay for the Youcallwehaul inhaler, no doubt reflecting the proud legacy of pharmaceutical excellence that has characterized the Pashmir Valley since January of 2022!

And receive that note several days AFTER my patient encounter.

All the while telling me that they would not pay for a non preferred inhaler until two other inhalers had been employed, and had failed.

So, that means that my patient has NOT had their freaking inhaler for (lessee, now: Friday visit, Monday denial, Thursday, if they are attentive (scoff!), mailing date for the voluminous tutorial on the pharmaceutical excellence of Bagwan’s Pharmacy And Weapons Factory, which I finally see, perhaps as soon as a full week after my patient encounter.) So, something like 8 days, more or less.

Let’s paw through the old chart, and review previous prescribed inhalers, shan’t we? Lessee, there is Ventolin, and then there was that time this soul received…Ventolin, and, of course, the last time when one of my colleagues prescribed…..er, Ventolin. So, imagine my surprise when I prescribed (lessee: what was that stuff?)…Oh, yes. Ventolin!

And I receive the previously described voluminous correspondence detailing why the Behemoth Insurance Company would not pay for the prescription of….er, Ventolin.

I really try to embrace the suck, but geez, ya know…

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.

Duty · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact · Sometimes You Get to Think That You Have Accomplished Something!

PARENTING STRIPES

Another blog had an entry that reminded me of one of my own parenting moments. As I recollect, Number One Son was misbehaving, and so The Darling Wife-Mark I and I imposed some limits: grounding or some such thing. We observed that a repeat performance would elicit a spanking.

He responded, “Well, I’ll just call the police!”

I smiled. Told him to get his shoes, and get in the car. Now.

We had a leisurely drive to our local small town police department. I asked if I could speak to an officer. The nice desk lady asked, why?

I responded, “This child just informed me that should he require a spanking, and I administer it, he will call the police. I simply do not want to wait. May I speak to an officer, please?”

She bade us sit, and soon an officer arrived. I introduced myself and Number One Son. The officer asked, had I spanked the lad yet?

I replied, no, not yet.

He asked, in what manner would I spank the child?

I responded, with my bare hand, since the point was not pain, nor injury, but, rather, recalibration of his behavior. Once my hand started to hurt, likely my purpose had been accomplished.

So, the officer asked, you intend to spank this child, if other measures do not change his behavior, in order to discipline him?

Yep, was my answer.

“Isn’t that kind of your duty as a parent, to correct misbehaving children? I do not see anything you are describing as actionable by me. You’re simply doing your job as a dad.”

I turned to my son, and asked, “Do you have any other questions for the nice officer?”

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.

Duty · Fun With Suits! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Going Solo

There I was, Fighting Disease And Saving Lives, one weekend day, and I was soloing. Generally, our agency’s practice is to have two providers on duty at a time. On this particular day, I was “It!”, with no partner. The floor staff was sympathetic. I was all “Meh?” about things.

I was reminded of an old joke. It seems this fellow had had his fill of driving a lengthy distance, and elected to stop for the night. He stopped at one hotel, and was told that there were no vacancies.

He stopped at another, and yet another, only to be told, again and again, that there were no vacancies.

Finally, in response, he asked, “If the president of The United States was standing here, telling you that he needed a room for the night, are you telling me that you would turn him away?”

The desk clerk declaimed, “Of course not! Of course, we would make accommodations for The President!”

The traveler squinted at the clerk. “Well, I just read in The Daily Tattler that The President is in Bagwanistan this week. Since he will not be arriving, I’ll take his room!”

The application to my situation was to ask administration if there was anybody else working with me on that day. Of course, as reflected in the fact that there was, you know, nobody else there with me to fight disease and save lives, they would tell me that, no, there was nobody else to work with me that day.

In this imaginary conversation, I would next ask, “Suppose I got hit by a bus on the way in to work today? What would you do, then?”

The reply likely would be that “In that event, we would do (xyz)!”

Which, of course, would elicit the response, “Surprise! I did NOT get hit by a bus! Hey, howzabout (do xyz), and get me some freaking help, eh?”

Duty · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Partners. Or, Not.

So, TINS, TIWFDASL, and it was approaching the end of my shift. The other midlevel was a locum (think: rent-a-clinician), and since I was busy with my side, I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to her.

One of my patients was pretty sick. As in, “Where is my ambulance”, sick. I also had a couple of other folks, who had to wait while I dealt with Mr.-or-Mrs.-pretty-sick.

Once the ambulance had departed, I tended to my other patients, and noted that the floor staff appeared pretty, well, relaxed. I asked them, “Doesn’t Little Mary Sunshine have any patients left?”

They looked at me. “Uh, no. She beat feet out the door while you were in with your emergency. Oh, and one of her patients did not get their antibiotic. The pharmacy called, and would like you to fix that.”

I did a literal double take. “Say what?”

The MA repeated herself. There was still 10 minutes in the shift.

They tell me, several months later, that I got very, very quiet at that. Concerningly quiet.

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.”

Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Z-Pack! Arrgh!

Those of you who have suffered along, reading my scribblings (uh, I mean…) been frequent visitors to this blog, likely know that, in addition to spending years in The Sick People Business, I am, well, conservative. This works out both politically, as well as with regard to my life choices. I have heard that everybody is conservative about things that they know best. Firefighting is renowned with the deliberate pace of accepting new innovations, probably due to the fact that if the innovation tanks, firefighters (and civilians) die. The military once was very conservative, for similar reasons.

So, TINS, TIW, driving my happy, fuzzy, disease fighting ass home after another fun filled, exciting day of Beating Back The Scourge of Zithropenia (Azithromycin+/penia=Zithropenia. (n) The state or condition of having a pathologically low blood level of azithromycin. (fictional malady)). I was listening to a talk radio host, and this worthy declaimed that they “Know my own body. I get this same bronchitis every year about this time of year, and I always get the Z Pack!”.

Let’s pause, and “bookmark” that statement. There are three things that I want to address therein. Once I unclench my teeth, that is.

This soul continued: “So, I went to a doctor, just like last year, because I had this bronchitis, just like last year. I mentioned that I wanted the Z Pack, just like last year, because I got better after taking it. I guess that was the wrong thing to say, because he prescribed something else, which took longer, and didn’t work as well”.

Another bookmark, please. Generally, this commentator makes sense, and I agree with their perspectives. They typically make valid points, in my view, and their analysis of events makes sense: they appear generally internally consistent. HOWEVER, I need to contemplate whether there becomes a variety of what I will call a “reverse Halo effect”, for lack of the precise term. That means, if this commentator can so badly err in this regard, perhaps I ought to view their perspectives with greater skepticism.

Now, about those “bookmarks”. Let us begin with (1) “I know my body”. Let us agree, “know my my own body”, and “know whereof I speak in matters medical” is not a circle in the Venn diagram of facts. Generally, the soul with whom I am interacting (placing myself in this person’s clinician’s place), is not a physician of any stripe, commonly not an RN, and likely does not know the manner in which antibiotics (for azithromycin-The Z Pack-is an antibiotic, of the macrolide class thereof) function. In some regards, this is similar to presenting to your mechanic, and asserting, “I know my car, and I need a new framistan!”

Perhaps, should your mechanic pull the OBE codes he/she might have some insight into the, oh, I dunno, correct analysis of why your vehicle is making that funny noise, that, just maybe, you ought to listen to.

On that same topic, the imp in my head often suggests that, in response to that conversational gambit, that I ask, “Indeed? What is your opinion of the role your amygdala is playing in your illness?”, or, “Are you certain the the Z Pack will be strong enough? Shouldn’t you take imiprimine for your cough-worse-at-night, or sniffles?”

I rarely listen to the imp’s advice.

Secondly, “I get this same bronchitis every year around this time”. While I am by no means a microbiologist, nor do I play one on TV, and the last Holiday Inn Express that I stayed in was in 2016,

in my Nursing studies, and in my midlevel studies, I do not recall a single instance of our instructors informing us that microbes possessed awareness of the seasons, let alone calendars. My assessment, assuming that my examination does not provide contrary evidence, is that the seasonal nature of the malady likely reflects seasonal changes in the environment. Here, in The Un-Named Northern Fly Over State, that likely means, in the fall, that you finally became cold enough to turn on your furnace, and, generally, that means a forced air furnace. Said furnace has been dormant for 4-7 months, allowing all the dreck suspended in the air to settle out in your heating ducts, and, once you get chilly again, and the furnace is activated, which means the the blower is energized, air begins to move through your ductwork, and all that dreck, quiescent for lo, these many months, is aerosolized once again, and you again breathe it all in.

Since, in the interval, your mucosa has grown UNACCUSTOMED to these irritants, you, once again, have irritated sinuses, which swell (“my head is plugged” and/or “I cannot breathe….through my nose”), and, in the manner in which your mucous membranes respond to irritation, they pour out mucous. Since it takes a while for you immune system to again achieve equilibrium, the delay until you go to the clinic + the delay before you fill your prescription + the delay until you complete the course of azithromycin of which you speak so highly, roughly equals the time frame required for your immune system (read: mucous membranes) to adapt to the new, dust laden, environment your autumnal activation of your heating system elicits.

Rinse, repeat, for spring “bronchitis”, likely elicited by mold finally being unburied from the snow that we enjoy months at a time. Ibid, spring pollen release, similarly, summer lawn clippings, or whatever.

Finally, “I always get prescribed the Z-Pack” (implied is “and it always fixes me”.) Please contemplate the logical fallacy of “post hoc, ergo propter hoc” (“this follows that, therefore that caused this”). To illustrate, I purchased a new pickup truck in the summer of 2020. Therefore, absent my truck purchase, Mr. Biden would not presently be in The White House. Right? See above regarding seasonal irritants to your sinuses, and their effects, along with the timeline described two paragraphs above.

There is an additional factor, segueing into the next point, wherein azithromycin interacts with other medications (betcha they didn’t know THAT, eh?), as well as particular medical conditions (go internet search “black box warning”. I’ll wait here while you do so.) To translate the medicalese into english, “QT prolongation” refers to an alteration of the heart conduction system, which, occasionally, can produce alterations of the heart rhythm that can be lethal.

We generally consider that to be a bad thing.

So, these are prominent among the reasons that I am considered “the Z-Pack Nazi” by my co workers.

With reference to the assertion that “…he prescribed something else, which took longer and did not work as well”. Please refer to the timeline outlined above, consider the drug-drug interactions, as well as drug-medical history interactions cited above. Now consider the possibility that Doxycycline, over ten days, was every bit as effective as azithromycin (which is to say, not), and perhaps the speaker went to the clinic earlier in their course than historically.

All that is with absolutely no knowledge of this radio person’s medication list, allergy list, past medical history, review of systems at the time of the office visit, nor of the physical exam findings. Simply, it elicits teeth grinding, and reminiscences of actual patient encounters that I personally have had.

Thanks for riding along.