In the midst of a particularly busy month, the 2 year anniversary of my life as a NP passed quietly. Happy anniversary to me! It seems fitting that I spent the day doing several paps and several more new patient visits. What anniversary would be complete without a peek in the vagina followed by a long conversation about why narcotic pain meds aren’t recommended for 20 year olds with chronic back pain?
Actually, I feel pretty good about my career right now. Yes, I am exhausted for 5 days a week. Yes, I work 9 hours a day with a 25 minute lunch and then another hour every night at home (I can hear other nurses saying incredulously “wow, you get lunch?”). But I’m proud of what I do. I’m proud that I still make eye contact with people, still remember to ask about their kids and their pets and their church and their mamas and still manage to look like I care. Actually, I do still care. I’d like to think that I’ve learned to balance my caring with practicality. Yes, it’s good to care about my patients. But no, its not good for me to worry about them when I leave the office at night. I do what I can during the day, and then I try to leave the rest behind until I walk back in the door the next morning.
I’m pretty proud of my work with LGBTQ patients. I know they appreciate having a homo take their sexual history. And I’m proud of my work with the trans community. I have almost 20 transgender patients now, and I’m getting referrals at the rate of 1 or 2 a month. I’ve had meetings with management to talk about improving our care for trans patients. I’ve spoken to other providers and helped to organize some local events. And just recently one of the new first year interns mentioned that she would like to train with me during residency. I’m thrilled that other providers are interested in this work. I’m equally (if more selfishly) thrilled at the legitimacy that a resident training program would bring me.
I will say this: having transgender patients is extra work. It’s not the patients themselves–they tend to be a little easier to work with than my ‘typical’ patients. It’s the time spent being a conscientious provider that is ‘extra’. I spend extra time on the phone because I handle all the prescription refills and patient intakes myself. I spend a lot of time reviewing studies and hormone protocols since there’s no easy algorithm for care and I haven’t memorized all of the information yet. I spend time contacting specialists prior to making referrals. Since our electronic record system doesn’t let us enter a preferred name or gender, I walk around the clinic with a pen each time my patients come in and handwrite their preferred name on every label and piece of paper that is generated. I’m not saying this just to piss and moan. I like this work. I like knowing that my patients are getting the best care possible from me. I know that the care is not perfect. But when I compare the clinic now to the clinic 2 years ago, we’re making progress. The medical assistants have stepped up to the plate and do their best to treat the patients with respect. The medical director has ‘transgender’ on his radar (which is progress compared to before). The clinic social worker is going to attend a conference on trans health so she can better serve our patients. The NP students I precept have expressed interest in the topic and have been excited to learn more. And best of all…I have an interest and a passion that keeps me from getting bored and burnt out. Seeing nothing but uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension and depression all-day-every-day would make me stab out my eyes. Having a specialty interest keeps things feeling worthwhile.
So despite the kvetching and the whining about my job, I still like it. Here’s hoping for another good 2 years!