What a Country Doctor Should Write

It’s been five years since I started this blog. Looking back at what my posts were like in the beginning, I can see that I have gradually found a style of writing that goes deeper and touches on subjects that are more challenging for me.

Over the years I have seen which topics seem to get the most pageviews, and which ones seem to interest fewer readers. I have been flattered by links and re-postings by more famous websites than mine and by primary care and teaching sites.

Generally speaking, postings like “What if Physicians Worked for Free” get the most attention in the short run, but medical topics like “The Art of Measuring Blood Pressure…” have had consistent interest over time.

Clinical vignettes like “Snap Diagnosis” are generally well received but never blockbusters.

From time to time I have posted interesting articles and excerpts from my inconsistent and eclectic reading list on a sister blog, “A Country Doctor Reads“. I didn’t want to put things that were tongue-in-cheek or “newsy” on “A Country Doctor Writes”. Just recently, I created custom tabs that link between the two blogs.

Some older pieces that I have, also very recently, collected under the category “Short Stories” have had relatively little attention, but I feel especially accomplished in having put a few medically related glimpses of life in a form that goes beyond personal essays or blog posts.

As I think about what the rest of my years as a doctor might look like, I also think about what I want to write about and how my voice or style should evolve.

It seems tempting to ride the wave of recognition I have gained with pieces about the time pressures, financial constraints, conflicting demands and administrative burdens of primary care doctors in this country, but I don’t want that to be the main focus of my writing.

I hope to be able to continue adding to the body of work that captures the timelessness and essence of doctoring, because that, more than what is happening today (good or bad) is what anchors me in my profession and calling.

In my practice, I have consciously let go of some of my obsessive tendencies for efficiency, and I have allowed myself to be more and more sensitive to what the situation requires when patients seem to drop a hint that they need to tell me something or when there seems to be a crack in their armor.

Years from now, I imagine people will remember if I helped them get through a difficult time or if I made a difficult diagnosis more than whether I was perfectly punctual.

I also imagine that years from now what I write today about a technicality in the practice of medicine will have less value than something that isn’t sensitive to time, place, party in power or healthcare budget priorities. I am not expecting to be in the history books, but I will confess my deepest hope:

I hope I can write about my life in medicine in a way that inspires some to follow the same path and helps a few doubting younger colleagues keep the faith in their chosen profession. I have seen and practiced medicine on two continents and under several very different systems, and it really isn’t that different if you manage to keep the focus not on the tools you have available, but on the patient.

We are the pilots, not the designers, mechanics or flight controllers. We may not always like the equipment or the traffic situation, but we still have to get our passengers safely to their destination.

I guess this was the first time I wrote about writing, rather than doctoring. I’ll get back on topic next time.

Thanks for listening.

(Midsummer’s Eve, North America 2013)

2 Responses to “What a Country Doctor Should Write”

  1. 1 Linda DeLia June 22, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    I enjoy anything you write!

  2. 2 Teri June 30, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    Since I get the posts by e-mail, I enjoy all the variety no matter what the subject. I live in a rural area, but of course see specialists in the city, and I know your writing helps me with perspectives about both types of practices and the overall systems of health care. Thanks for continuing with your blog!

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Osler said “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis”. Duvefelt says “Listen to your patient, he is telling you what kind of doctor he needs you to be”.


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