How to Decide on Your Clinic Hours

I met with my high school bff recently. I am in the medical field while she is in the corporate life for the most of her career. I remember an earlier conversation with her about how great it is for doctors to be able to schedule their clinics  against her fixed office hours.  I told her I envy her 13th month pay and bonuses, so we are even! 

But she is right. One of the great thing about practicing is the chance to shape your schedule as you wish. My clinic hours evolved through the years. I started mine with a toddler to raise. I was definite about being around for him. So I opted to see patients by appointment. Clinic starts not so early  and end not so late. As he grew and start big school, I shifted to a very early clinic and timed its end to his dismissal.  I am a morning person so this is great for me. I also like seeing inpatients early so i dont worry about them the rest of the day. 

Changes happened through the years. With an  administrative position in the hospital and additional reponsibilities, a clinic by appointment worked perfectly for me. I had control of my time.  With the traffic  during early morning commute , I experimented on the best time to leave the house  and the best time to go home.  The 2 to 3 hours early commute to the hospital  plus an hour to prepare is too much to bear.  My house is just 6 kilometers from the hospital. That’s an easy 20 to 30 minutes ride when there is no traffic. I figured its best to leave between 9:30am to 10:00 am. So the  morning girl  now holds clinic  at  11am onwards. I am yawning by the time  its 2pm. Good thing I am used to the schedule now. No more yawning ūüôā . I also make sure I leave for home no later than 4pm so i can get home in 30 minutes. 

So many things  get into deciding clinic hours. Consider your family schedule, your body’s peak productivity hours, type of work you need to do ( eg.early surgeries) and even type of patients you see  (eg.  diabetic patients  who are fasting has to be seen early). 

I learned through time that patients follow the doctor they like, no matter what. But do pay heed to what works best for you and what allows you to give the best attention to your patients.

How I took my specialty board and exam

Anyone who went through a specialty training and took their specialty board exam have stories to tell. This is how that day went. I remember my written exam  in one big auditorium in Unilab. This is it, I told myself. Months of memorizing and reviewing Nelson, our pediatric bible will be put to test today. So many hopefuls in the room. As examinees enter the auditorium, I saw something being handed to each examinee  from where I am standing  behind. When my turn came, I was delighted to get a plastic that contains candies, a biscuit, a boiled egg and a fruit. How thoughtful! I appreciated the gesture but I did not have time to eat any of them out of nervousness ! The exam was looonng! Managing my time was important. I determined how long I should stay on an item. Its either I know the answer or I don’t. So I skipped those I don’t know and marked it so I can go back for it. Its also important to take deep breathes every 45 minutes to clear the mind. 

My oral exam is another story. We were divided into groups. I remember one consultant attending to us before we enter the hall. He was our cheer leader. Psyching up our spirits. He asked some of us to comb our hair or put on a lipstick so we would look good and confident.  Each examinee will be assigned to 3 examiners. You will only know who they are when its your turn. I will have to get a passing grade from 2 out of the 3  to pass . I think oral exams are more difficult because it is a face to face experience. Its an added challenge compared to looking at a paper in a written exam.  I prayed for  examiners  who will be kind and gentle to me. I was afraid everything I know ( assuming I remember much of the enormous materials I read through the months) will be thrown into the winds if I  get a “toxic and terror ” examiner. 

One examiner was a  gracious lady who asked me questions in a soft and gentle voice. Thank god. She does not tell you if you got the answer right but I see a small nod from time  to time so I figured maybe I am okay. My second examiner is one kind lady too. She asked about poisoning. I was praying I did not get the two types she was asking me about mixed up as I blurt out answers. The third examiner was interesting. Without much expression on his face, he just told me ” 5 yo boy with fever was  brought in the ER.” I was waiting for him to say something else. He didnt. So I  asked a  question. How many days of fever? “Five”, he answers. Silence. Then I  asked another, “other symptoms?” He  answers. This kept on going for some time. I realized he was really on me figuring out how I will think through the case . It was a very insightful encounter. It took some days to know the result of the oral exam. 

Knowing I passed is another story to tell. I never really saw the list of those who passed myself. My friend’s husband went to the society office to look at the list. He was the one who told me I passed. Of course I believed him! He would jokingly asked me and his wife if we are really board passers because we did not really see our names in the list  ourselves. Good thing we got a letter for it!

If you are taking your exams anytime soon, go take your exams with the confidence that you have prepared well.  Know that everything you need  you already have in you. Dress up for it. Put on makeup. Carry a big smile. Pray. Give it your best. 

Plan a Life Not Just a Living

For as long as I can remember,  I know I have always wanted to be a doctor.

When I was in high school, I met  a family friend  who is an anesthesiologist. She is kind, warm, compassionate.  She attended to me when I had my first minor surgery before entering college.  She is  partly practicing and partly holding an administrative position. She was simple, pretty and elegant.

Mostly I was attracted to her demeanor. Warm, soft spoken but firm at the same time. She reassured me while going through the procedure. She seem to like what she is doing. She has a family  and spends a good amount of time with them.  I sensed a great mix of work and family life. I kept that in my mind through the years.

I want a life like that ,I told my young self.

I have kept that image  of  work life balance in my mind. Many years forward, I am a physician and had opportunities to do administrative and training work in my hospital.

Have I done it?  The balance?  I must admit not all the time.  But I found a good means to  find my way back  when it tips  off to one side.

I would like to teach you how.

Let me share  one story with you.   In one training session, I met Dr. A. She is a young fellow in her last year of training. We had an activity where they were asked to create images of their desired future.

How would life be 5 to 10 years from now?

How would each day of waking up look like?

Where am I ?

Who am I with?

What is my work place like?

How is my weekend?

Do I have a family? How are we?

Many questions. The answer to which had to be placed on a board with the most colorful and representative pictures we could find.

Then it was time to share. As she was called, I noticed she was teary eyed. The exercise was a revelation to her. Looking at her board, she saw that her ideal life was way off with the lifestyle of her chosen field. She wanted a predictable day time job that would allow her to do other things. No night calls. No emergencies.

She cried. I can sense regret and sadness.¬† She is on her last few days of training . Then I told her, “you know, your practice¬† can be as you define and design it”. She couldn’t get back the years she spent training for her field but she can practice in a way that could fit her desired ideal life.

I see her around these days. She is happy. Her practice is mostly ambulatory. She trained further in a subspecialty that makes it more of a day job. This field does not require night calls and is seldom an emergency.

Create your vision of life and work.  Keep it where you can see it. Make it a reminder to yourself each day you wake up.

.Why plan a practice when you can plan a life?

What’s your plan? Share yours.

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