Sunday, January 30, 2011

Rural Medicine and Splitting Hairs

Kennebec riverSo, tomorrow begins my rural community health rotation, which basically means private family practice in a rural area. I've always thought that was a bit of an inside joke since the entire state of Maine is classified as rural, but I'm probably splitting hairs. From the standpoint of population, my last rotation was actually more rural, since tomorrow's is only six miles from a town of eight thousand. I'm probably splitting hairs, again. I think the idea is to get me somewhere off the beaten path.

You might be wondering why I'm doing a rotation like this in the first place. The most obvious reason is because, well, I have to. While rural medicine is an elective at other medical schools, mine requires it. We train mostly primary care physicians and the average patient, if we decide to practice in Maine, will likely resemble those we see on this rotation. It's also a way of getting students out of their comfort zone, though for me, rural life is like biscuits and gravy. I was raised in the country and practically learned "down home" before English.

As to what I'm expecting, it's going to be family practice. Lots of colds, flu, and diarrhea. There may be opportunities to learn how to suture cut fingers and I suspect, like most family docs, my guy is also the local shrink. That will be fun. I'm hoping for a chance to get my physical exam skills back up to speed and use the OMM skills I've been practicing the past month. And I hope my preceptor eventually feels comfortable enough to allow me to work up a few patients on my own.

For most students, rural medicine seems to come along later in the rotation cycle, so they've had a chance to learn a few things before showing up at "Doc Hollywood's" front door. Because I had to retake boards, my cycle is slightly different, so rural medicine is my opportunity to get into shape before diving into the hospital madhouse routine. I'm not sure one way is better than the other, it's simply the way things are. I'm just glad to have boards behind me and be seeing patients for a change.

From the perspective of my dog and cat, this will be a lot easier than the PASS Program. Last fall, as you may recall, I was in Champaign, Illinois for eight weeks and the three of us chewed up the phone lines every night. This time, I'll be out of town four days out of seven, but it's only a two hour drive away, and I'll be home on the weekends. We'll go for walks, watch movies, have morning snuggles with the cat on my lap, and bake cookies before I head back on Sundays. Pretty much life as usual. Considering subsequent rotations may send me further afield and for longer periods, this will be a good transition for them. And for me.

Anyway, there will be more to come and we shall all see how it goes. Oh, and yes, I'll take photos.


(Creative Commons image of the Kennebec River by qnr via Flickr)
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