The Doctor is In

waterfall 3


Astonishing material and revelation appear in our lives all the time.
Let it be.
Unto us, so much is given.
We just have to be open for business.

~Anne Lamott from Help Thanks Wow: Three Essential Prayers


I have the privilege to work in a profession where astonishment and revelation awaits me behind each exam room door.

In a typical clinic day, I open that door up to thirty plus times, close it behind me and settle in for the ten or fifteen minutes I’m allocated per patient.  I need to peel through the layers of each person quickly to find the core of truth about who they are and why they’ve come to me.

Sometimes what I’m looking for is right on the surface: in their tears, in their pain, in their fears.  Most of the time, it is buried deep and I need to wade through the rashes and sore throats and coughs and headaches and discouragement to find it.

Once in awhile, I actually do something tangible to help right then and there — sew up a cut, lance a boil, splint a fracture, restore hearing by removing a plug of wax from an ear canal.

Often I find myself giving permission to a patient to be sick — to take time to renew, rest and trust their bodies to know what is best for a time.

Sometimes, I am the coach pushing them to stop living sick — to stop hiding from life’s challenges, to stretch even when it hurts, to get out of bed even when not rested, to quit giving in to symptoms that can be overcome rather than be overwhelming.

Always I’m looking for an opening to say something a patient might think about after they leave my clinic — how they can make better choices, how they can be bolder and braver in their self care, how they can intervene in their own lives to prevent illness, how every day is just one thread in the larger tapestry of their lifespan.

Each morning I rise early to get work done at home before I actually arrive at my desk at work, trying to avoid feeling unprepared and inadequate to the volume of tasks heaped upon each day.   I know I will be stretched beyond my capacity, challenged by the unfamiliar, the unexpected and will be stressed by obstacles thrown in my way.  I know I will be held responsible for things I have little to do with, simply because I’m the one “in charge” as the decision-maker.

It is always tempting to go back to bed and hide.

Instead of hiding,  I go to work as the exam room doors need to be opened and the layers peeled away.  I understand the worry, the fear and the pain because I have lived it too.  Even now in my seventh decade of life,  I am learning how to let it be, even if it is scary.  It is a gift perhaps I can share.

No matter what waits behind the exam room door,  it will be astonishing to me.

I’m grateful to be open for business.  The Doctor is In.



13 thoughts on “The Doctor is In

  1. What a gift you are for your patients Emily. God has blessed so many people thru your various gifts.
    I had to take my dear husband to the ER last week and was very impressed with the young Dr. that stapled his scalp in place. And the young vet that did the c section on the transverse puppy, 8 hours after the previous 5 were birthed… if these are just 2 examples of the compassionate, open hearted physicians coming into the work field, we are all in good hands. (The ER Dr. gave me the tool to remove the staples, the vet invited me, my daughter and 2 granddaughters in to watch the surgery.)
    PS. That purple leaf is beautiful..The imagery is so appropriate.


  2. You are an anachronism, a dinosaur, dear Emily — like the bedside doctors whom I recall from not too long ago,.

    We have since ‘modernized,’ ‘digitized,’ ‘time-studied’ our medical delivery system, forever changing the sacred trusted relationship between doctor and patient. And the loser(s)?
    You and your patients – all of us.

    But still, you hang in there Emily, contributing above and beyond your best (plus) for which you underwent a laborious, long training period and may often endure times of angst because of your deep concern for your patients’ visible and invisible needs.

    You and other medical professionals who believe and act as you do have earned our serious respect and gratitude. “Thank you” seems so inadequate, but it comes from the heart.

    (On a lighter note: do you make house calls to Albany NY?)


  3. And the (old) Paramedic may be in soon as well. I’m attempting a comeback after almost two decades on the sidelines, teaching. Just a few exams to pass first. I have both sides of the eye chart memorized and I’m ready to go. Thanks for the well-wrought inspiration, Emily. It’s more important than I can tell you.


  4. Rob,

    I’m very happy to hear this, but had to chuckle at the eye chart memorization. Best wishes on those exams (I’ve got one of my own recertifications coming up too soon!)



  5. Alice, sure wish I could make house calls to Albany!

    I’m quite the dinosaur with a foot in the swamps of the old days and the other foot in the new ways, and the stretch is uncomfortable, like doing the splits. Not sure how much longer I can do this….!



  6. it’s the med students who need to know it is possible to keep your heart intact during that training process! thanks for sharing it with her,



  7. F L O P Z E D D E F P O T E C (side 1, line 3, if memory serves) Emily, I took a page from Grandpappy Amos McCoy’s book. The episode in which he’s trying to renew his driver’s license, memorizes the chart, and the doctor flips it just before Amos’ turn. The doc is initially startled, figures it out, and says, “Amos, you have the best eyesight in the whole county–you can see right through my chart!” It’s why I memorized both sides. No flies on me! My test will be a breeze. Good luck with yours.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.