Oh brave new world

Tonight I volunteered at the local Free Clinic, an independent organization that is staffed mostly by physicians from my hospital. Double fun because: (1) seeing patients on my own and presenting them to the senior neurology resident and (2) free dinner!

The weirdest thing for me is that the free clinic is not electronic just yet. Setting up an EMR takes an unbelievable amount of capital, so obviously they would prefer their donations go to things like medications and direct patient services. But for me, who came of age in the post-computer world, it was so very weird to be handed a thick paper chart and be launched into things.

I only had two patients scheduled all night. Took my time with the first one and planned to write the note afterwards (as I usually do on the computer), but given the way the patient flow is set up, I need to finish the note before the patient can leave. Which, oops! So with the second patient, I tried to write as I went along, which made me feel like I wasn’t paying any attention to the patient because I was writing my full note in front of her.

I also had a LOT of trouble writing a script on a prescription pad because … I’ve actually never done that before. Ever. I usually just write electronic prescriptions which get e-sent to the pharmacy; it’s all just a bunch of check boxes and hit send. What do you mean I have to know the tablet strength??

The patients were actually really good, seemed quite grateful for the care they received (from me, still wet behind the ears). One complicated patient who really needs proper follow-up with continuity, and another much more straightforward case of vertigo. I do wish I had felt less rushed — but that, perhaps, will come with time.

So: educational for me on ambulatory care; helpful for the patients; and generally all around an awesome experience.

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