Editorial: Feeling fortunate to have a job you love

April 10, 2011

The author is reminded almost daily why he can be grateful for the job he has as well as its ample compensation.

Still, I am reminded almost every day how fortunate I am to be doing what I love to do and receiving more than adequate compensation-financial and otherwise-for doing it.

Recently I assumed care of a new patient in a skilled nursing facility. I sat down and spent some time with her family.

All the other family members at the table nodded their approval. Even after I heard the prior patient's name I did not recall her, but I smiled and thanked them.

Working with the hospice nurse, we established a good care plan for Bessie. The whole thing took no more than 15 minutes. The hospice nurse thanked me for my help, saying some physicians would not have spent the time. I told her the pleasure was mine-because it was. I told her of the remarkable privilege I have to be able to have a positive and meaningful impact on a patient's life and on the lives of her family.

Back in the office, I reviewed the prior patient's chart. She was my patient 10 years ago. I had seen her only twice in the nursing facility, spent no more than the usual amount of time, and provided what, on paper at least, was pretty standard care. I still had trouble remembering her, but I felt good knowing that 10 years later, her family had good thoughts about what I had done. I had helped them. It brings a smile to my face as I type these words.

In fact, I hear similar things all the time, not to mention the cookies, the postcards from vacations, the holiday and birthday presents, and the hugs. Keep the extra payment for a 99214 instead of a 99213. I'll take the hug.

BEING GRATEFUL

Then one day last week I talked to a patient I have followed for over 20 years. He told me that he might not be able to continue coming in because after 28 years on the job, he was being "let go." At the age of 56, he was looking for another job but said his chances of finding something were "slim-to-none." He worked in a food processing plant that was moving to another state where the taxes and the salaries were less. He and his coworkers were not even given the offer to move. "I love my job," he said. "I don't know what to do."

Like you, I hear stories such as that more and more these days. Good and hard-working people who have dedicated years to their employers are being told not to come in tomorrow.

And I thought about my own employment situation: My office schedule is full, and we turn away prospective new patients every day. I am busy, even busier than I want to be, but not knowing what to do has never been a problem. I may be making less per patient, and I know that I am doing more paperwork and more administrative things, but I still get to do what I love to do: take care of patients. How's my job security? I'm a primary care physician with 80% Medicare patients. No one is after my job. Nor will I tell them what a great job it really is.