The Dreaded 1st day back to rheumatology clinic post-hols

The Dreaded 1st day back to rheumatology clinic post-hols

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Guess which city? Guess which city?

By Dr Irwin Lim, Rheumatologist

3 weeks overseas with my family. 3 junior school children. Almost every minute of every day together.

Time to return to work!

It’s the longest break I’ve had since commencing private practice a decade ago. Holidays are crucial to refresh and to refill the rheumatologist’s compassion quota so I definitely plan to take more this year!

However, I’m usually very wary of what I’ll return to. I think my colleagues are the same. The work builds up, problems fester, people get sicker during this time away.

The 1st day back in clinic can be very painful!

I thought you might be interested in strategies I use to cope with this:

  • Work closely with other rheumatologists. My mates can help field calls and see my patients urgently while I’m away.
  • Have reception staff with good common sense. Reception staff need to triage messages from patients and help redirect the urgent ones rather than having patients wait till I return.
  • I accept and answer emails from staff and patients on holiday. My wife does not like this. But I find that I can relatively quickly and easily sort out little problems, and redirect more urgent ones.
  • I used to check patient results while away by remotely logging into our servers. Yes, I’m type A. I’ve learned to stop this habit and have relied on staff flagging urgent results which in turn have been flagged by pathology providers, etc.
  • The afternoon/night before returning to the 1st clinic is however spent, sitting with my laptop at home, going through all these results. 3 weeks away meant a few hundred pathology test results to review. Rheumatologists tend to have lots of these given the medications we use and the requirement for regular monitoring blood tests.
  • I arrive at least an hour before clinic begins. The usual mound of mail needs reading, sorting and attending to.
  • The 1st day tends to be longer with any break spent returning phone messages and attending to lists of various tasks.

The above steps help me nip problems in the bud and help make the 1st day back after holidays more pleasant.

I’d be interested to know what my rheumatology colleagues do but I assume they have developed similar coping mechanisms.

Dr Irwin Lim is a rheumatologist and a director of BJC Health. You should follow him on twitter here.
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