A true conversation with my voicemail

I had some free time at work today and decided it was time to get my voicemail set up.  I lifted the receiver to my ear, pressed the button with the envelope picture and surrendered myself to the automated prompts.  A neutral, female sounding robot voice came on.

“To listen to your messages, press 1.  To send a message, press 2.  To change your greeting press,” the long beep as I anticipated what she was going to say and pressed 3.  I imagined that the face these words came from was neither smiling nor frowning – emotionless.  I can work with that.

“Please enter your password, followed by the # sign.”  I entered 1+2+(my 4 digit extension), what I understood to be the default password on our phone system.

“That is an incorrect password.  Please enter your password, followed by the # sign.”

Hmmm, I’ll try one more time.  Maybe I had inadvertently transposed 2 of the digits.  I pressed the 6 keys in sequence, more carefully and deliberately this time.  The response of the automated attendant, who I now imagined was 45 years old, slender with straight, light brown hair and still wearing the same blank expression came back on.

“That is the same incorrect password.  Please enter your pass-”

I cut her off and reached for the keypad a third time, mildly annoyed by her editorializing.  I pressed  1; I pressed 3; crap!  She had gotten me so flustered, my finger had slipped!  There’s no backspace on an automated phone menu.  I’d have to abort the process and start over.  Figuring there was no point in entering the remainder of my 4 digit extension, I hit #.  Again the voice, neutral and nonjudgmental, but without empathy and clearly with no vested interested in my success.

“You must enter a password before pressing #.  Please enter a-”   Jesus, work with me lady, please! I stopped, took a deep breath and resolved to make one more attempt.  1+2+(4 digit extension).  I held my breath.

“You have made too many attempts to enter your password and have been locked out of the system.  Please contact your administrator for further assistance.”

You win this round, automated voice menu lady.

The reason(s) why I left clinical medicine

From medical school interviews, to residency interviews, to discussions with friends and family, I have had to answer the question of why I decided to become a doctor literally hundreds of times.  In answer to this question, I would tell a story.  And, like all good stories, the ones I would tell contained a bit of truth and a bit of fiction.  I would try to balance what people wanted to hear a doctor say motivated him to enter medicine (or, at least, what I perceived people wanted to hear) with the truth.  The answers I would give varied and aren’t important right now.  Because part of what I want to do with this blog is to provide some true insight into of why I became a doctor and then left clinical medicine.   So, why did I become a doctor?  Here’s one true answer – I did it for the same reason that I run (or attempt to run) marathons.  Namely, it is a challenge that uses my capabilities to their fullest, leaves me stronger in the end and where success is not a fore drawn conclusion.  In my opinion those are the best reasons to do anything in life.

Got it, so why did you leave?  Based on my conversations with doctors over the years, I’ve come to realize that my love-hate relationship with medicine is far form unique.  The happiest doctors find their interactions with patients rewarding, don’t mind spending their free time reading journal articles, are well supported by capable office staff and have families that show understanding when unexpected, yet urgent, job related obligations arise.  But, even under the best of circumstances, there is no way to avoid the occasional phone call at dinner time about your 11:20 am patient…”Her d-dimer is how high?  Chest x-ray is normal?” (sign) Looks like I need to send the patient to the ER because she might have a pulmonary embolism.  Or do I?  Was she really that short of breath?  Maybe the d-dimer is more likely to be a false positive.  While I ponder the clinical scenario, I try to appear interested as my son excitedly shows me a robot he made out of a cardboard box.  Four minutes tick by, then five.  I consider all the possible outcomes: a) send the patient to the ED -> diagnose a PE -> save the patient’s life, b) send the patient to the ED -> CT is negative -> patient is ok but exposed to unnecessary radiation, time and expense -> dinner is ruined c) enjoy dinner with my family -> patient is ok,  d) enjoy dinner with my family, patient dies.  Crap, I’d better call the patient.

The above scenario is common and in no way rewarding.  Which is why, even in an ideal world, there are aspects of clinical medicine that kind of suck.  Rather that attempt to summarize everything about clinical medicine that compelled me be both to stay and eventually to leave in a few neat paragraphs, I plan to tell a series of stories.  I hope they will resonate with clinicians and nonclinicans alike.

This website will never collect your personal information

For the past several months, I’ve mostly abstained from the use of social media.  I could blame it on Facebook – their carelessness with the personal information and data which I, and billions of other users, generate for them.  I could say that I’m tired of being used, sold and marketed to.  But that would be disingenuous.  As an actual matter of fact, I don’t much care what Facebook does with my data.  I’m not sure that I even consider it to be “my data” anymore once I’ve posted something.  No, my  lack of communication via social media (as well as more conventional methods on communication like mail, telephone and ravens) is more accurately attributable to laziness.  But, that’s neither here no there.  The point is, I worry that my writing skills – such as they are – will irreversibly atrophy if don’t start using them again on a regular basis.  To that end, I introduce you to “Tim’s personal privacy page.”

“What is Tim’s personal privacy page?” you ask.

A fair question.  The answer is, “I don’t know yet.”  What I can tell you is that I am not particularly interested in continuing to interact with an advertising platform with some social media capability – by that, I mean Facebook.  I can tell you that this website will never contain advertising.  And, I can make the solemn pledge that no information about visitors will ever be collected, shared, sold or used to influence an election.

So, thanks for stopping by!  I’ll post again tomorrow with some further explanation and updates regarding some recent life changes (most notably, switching careers).  If you want to follow my blog, click on the RSS feed link to subscribe.  If you don’t use an RSS feed reader, you may continue to follow me on Facebook as it will be updated, but only with links to new blog posts.  Take care!

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