Monday, March 21, 2011

A Day in the Life of an Oncologist: “How Do You What You Do?” | GRACE :: Coping with Cancer / Social Work

On the rare occasion I’m in a social situation with people who aren’t in medicine (yes, I’m sure you know I don’t get out much, so this is largely from remote memory), the most common question that follows my answer to what I do for a living is, “How can you do what you do?”.   People imagine the obvious low points of telling people about a new cancer, about delivering bad news and discussing people’s difficult cancer-related symptoms and potential to decline despite our best efforts.  It’s fair to wonder what keeps us going.  So I thought I’d provide a brief sketch of a day in my clinic, which offers several ups along with the downs everyone might envision as dominating life in the oncology clinic.

   Work starts at about 7AM. At least the drive in avoids the big traffic.  I review my schedule, briefly reviewing the recent records of the people coming in that day, including a more detailed review of the records of new patients, including reviewing their scans that are usually delivered in anticipation of their arrival in my clinic.  Check e-mail, sign head shots in response to fan mail*, etc. (*in truth, it is perhaps technically more accurate to say that I sign dozens of orders for prescription refills and lab orders).

   Before clinic starts, I head to the hospital to round on inpatients of mine in the hospital.  One is a young man with testicular cancer who is doing fine on his chemo, though he’s grown weary of the hospital food after three admissions lasting 5 days each for inpatient chemo.  Fortunately, this is his last planned round of chemo, so the end is in sight.  And he knows I’m not responsible for the food.  At least his nausea is so well controlled that he’s interested in eating.

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Andrew Lopez, RN
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