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.

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.

Duty · Gratitude · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Sometimes You Get to Think That You Have Accomplished Something!

Telemedicine: Threat, or Menace?

One fine day, I was at work, FDASL, and received a text from my daughter, let’s call her Brenda. She related that her second child had developed what looked like pink eye, to Brenda’s assessment. She (Brenda) had contacted whoever, and that medical soul had video chatted/e-visited/virtually visited/some other bullshit with my grand daughter, and had prescribed an ophthalmic antibiotic.

Brenda was not altogether certain that this assessment was spot on, and wanted her clinician dad’s take on things.

As you may have surmised, MY take on non patient contact, not in the same room “visits”, is not filled with much enthusiasm. There is something to the gestalt of being in the physical presence of somebody, that provides you with clues that are neither evident, nor are they provided across a video screen of any sort. (Ever smell the fruity breath of diabetic ketoacidosis? Ever smell it over a phone?)

Placing that aside for a moment, I asked for some pix. (I am aware that this amounted to the very same thing I had just, 11 words ago, railed against. Wait for it.) My grandchild’s eye appeared red, and (uncommonly in pink eye), so did the tissue surrounding her eye.

I asked if this grandchild could move her gaze left and right, upwards and downwards, painlessly. Was there any change in her vision?

The response I received was that the vision in her affected eye was “blurry”, as well as “it hurts when she looks up”.

My response text, verbatim, was, “Who is going to see her in person, in the next half hour?”

Brenda took her child to our local urgent care, which clinician, to THIS clinician’s credit, is reported to have entered the room, taken one look at my grand daughter, and turned to her mother, and said “So, I’m not going to charge you for this visit. Do you know the way to Big City Referral Hospital? Good. Do not dawdle. Go directly there, now. Yes, I mean the emergency department. Thank you. Drive safely.”

THOSE folks examined her, CT’d her, and started an IV (a process that Grand Daughter did NOT approve of!), and IV antibiotics, and admitted her for several days. The CT had revealed a peri orbital cellulitis (mild, but, nonetheless…), which responded to the medication.

She is now home, sassy, and none the worse for the experience. Take home points: Brenda demonstrates many, many of the affirmative attributes of The Plaintiff: she is smart, decisive, has a finely calibrated and high functioning “shit don’t sound right” detector, and is a bulldog advocate for her children.

I loathe “telemedicine”.

Sometimes I am both blessed and lucky. This time, to the benefit of my grandchild.

Fun And Games Off Duty · Pre Planning Your Scene

Sleigh Bells Jingling, etcetera

So, TINS, TIWFDASL something like 60 northern Un-Named Flyover State miles from home. This was several years ago, of course, when we still had snowfalls (…he said, snarkily!) One night, I got out of work after 12 hours in our windowless ED, to find it had SIFAO. (Snowed….). AND, for bonus points, was still SIFAO. My daily driver was a 2008 FWD Hyundai Sonata.

So, it turns out that, at 45 mph, my typical 1 hour drive approaches 2 hours. Particularly when, SIFAO as it was, I followed the exit ramp, thinking I was still on the expressway.

You start to wonder about that, once the stop sign appears.

I re entered the highway, and plowed my way home, white knuckling it the whole way. I got home safely, the car gave me STELLAR gas mileage that trip, TDW-Mark II worried, and I galumped my crabby ass, along with considerable snow, into the house, unbruised.

Thanks Be To Chthulu.

More thoughtful observers, than I apparently am, might wonder why I simply did not obtain a motel room, and sleep my happy ass away, in the town that I was already in, and thereby allow the unsung heroes of the road commission and the state highway department, to work their magic and clear the roads?

Well, to be honest, that would require more foresight than, evidently, I possessed at that time. One might wonder if I had contemplated the McFee Four Stages of Snow Emergency. I had not.

To review, here are The McFee “Four Stages of Snow Emergency” Scale.

Level 4: wear your damn boots
Level 3: bring a coat, bring a shovel and a scraper
Level 2: do the s#!t you have to do and go the hell home
Level 1: Ermagerd! French toast by candlelight!

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.”