By HANS DUVEFELT
I am a 68 year old family physician in rural Maine. This morning I read another article on physician burnout, this time in The New York Times. (I don’t connect to them because they have a “paywall”.)
I didn’t find myself exactly where or how I expected to be at the end of my career, or life in general to be bluntly honest. But I am the happiest I have been since starting my medical career.
I have a balance in my life that I haven’t had, or even sought after, for many years as I juggled patient care, administration, raising a family, and pursuing interests that often took me far from home.
My days at the clinic are a bit shorter than they used to be, but over the past few years I’ve had to do a lot more homework – even more in the past two. The way to think about it with the “half empty glass” is that work has seeped more into my personal life and home. The “half-full” point of view is that I can do my computer work when it suits me best. For one of my clinic positions, I can do graphics on an iPad mini in bed, coffee on my bedside table, and sleeping dogs at my feet. The most clunky DME requires a laptop (which in my opinion cannot be used as the name suggests). I sometimes work in the barn and sometimes on a picnic table in the grass outside.
Ironically, the pandemic has brought me a peace and clarity that I probably wouldn’t have obtained otherwise.
I had thought that returning to Caribou for a position without administrative responsibilities would open up social opportunities that I had not allowed myself in recent years. I expected to get involved in the Swedish community here, to connect more with neighbors and other horse owners etc.
But the confinement forced me to sit more with my own thoughts, feelings and memories. It forced me to consider, not for the first time but again, that in this unpredictable life, the only sure thing is that I am me and that I am where I am.
When, like many other people, I realized that this pandemic could wipe out countless people, including myself, and completely change the lives of those who survived, it completely freed me from myself. worry about the little things. Or, rather, to consider the little things, because I’m not really worried. I just used to run a lot of what-if scenarios in my head. I was several steps ahead in my mind and I not only understood Plan B. I would have backups on my backups.
Now I fully accept the unpredictability of life and it has freed me up a lot of mental capacity and even time.
I have published three books and my blog has continued to grow. As of this writing, I have posted every day for the past three weeks. The more I write, the more ideas I have. And my writing is inspired by my engagement with patients and the reflection on medicine that they provoke in me. My clinical work informs my writing, and my writing makes me a more curious clinician. I get to work thinking “what interesting things am I going to see today?” “
How could I feel exhausted when every day at the clinic is where I go to get inspiration from writing?
The pandemic has also, ironically, brought me closer to my friends and family. Before the pandemic, I felt too busy to connect, especially in person, never liked to talk on the phone, and was not on social media. Now I often text, call, or chat with my kids. I FaceTime every two weeks with my exchange year brother from 50 years ago. I email and chat with cousins in Sweden and some of their kids are in my Facebook feeds.
I am also more connected to my home. I take more pleasure in making small repairs. In years past, my home improvements were on a larger scale. Now, I do the small, low-key things with so much pride.
I only leave the property to work in my clinic (my second job is via telemedicine from my kitchen island) and to go shopping. The animals thrive on being all together and on balmy summer nights we all sleep in the barn with the upper doors open. I love falling asleep to the sound of summer, the dogs’ sleep and the hay munching.
I am so happy with my life as a country doctor.
Hans Duvefelt is a rural family physician born in Sweden in Maine. This article originally appeared on his blog, A Country Doctor Writes, here.