12 March 2003
I try to make Tuesday's entry about weight loss, but I'm running out of angst and new
things to talk about. Besides, this was a good week. I lost a pound and a half again and
I'm back in the swing of things. I didn't stay for the meeting because (a) I had to be at
work early, and (b) I'm going to a second meeting in Sacramento tomorrow with a friend, so
I figure I'll get my inspiration tomorrow.
I had hoped to go to the grocery store after work, since we're out of lots of food, but
I worked so long I was just too exhausted to go through the supermarket, so it's going to
be a "scrounge through the fridge for leftovers" night tonight.
It's been the week from hell--and it's only Tuesday. But since Dr. G is going away for
the next three days, today seems like Thursday--and it definitely feels like I've worked
for four days.
We suddenly seem to be very busy. Partly we've been around long enough that
patients are now coming back for their one-year checkups. Partly, new publicity is
working. Partly it's the addition of a new bone density machine and the hoopla that has
gone on surrounding that. And partly it's just word of mouth.
But I seem to be juggling so many things at once that it's a wonder I don't have a
concussion from everything coming crashing down on my head. The phone rang non-stop, and
every time I started doing anything, it would ring again. Since we had so many patients,
my presence was needed every 30 minutes to assist with an exam.
Then there were just...different things. We had a contractor in to give an estimate on
some building modifications. The newspaper showed up for a photo shoot for the article
they are doing on the new machine (I was the patient for the exam). The new radiation
technologist started work, all bright eyed and eager to do it all and though she's
delightful, it's very difficult to be overworked and try to train someone at the
But the big new thing was actually something fun.
I've been working as "medical assistant" (without training, without
experience, without knowledge, without skill) ever since I began. Usually my role consists
in standing by the side of the exam table and showing a patient where her uterus is on the
ultrasound machine, or standing by Dr. G while he takes a Pap smear and getting the sample
ready to send to the lab.
Occasionally I've assisted with minor procedures. My part usually involves wiping off
the bottle of Lidocaine that he injects into the appropriate body part to numb it for
whatever procedure is being done, handing him stuff, and pushing the button that will take
pictures on the ultrasound machine. And then cleaning up afterwards, of course.
I've mentioned here before that the reason I never went into nursing was because I
didn't think I had the stomach for it, but I'm discovering that (so far) I really do.
Blood and other bodily fluids don't bother me at all.
Today I got to find that out even more closely than usual.
The patient had a Bartholin's gland cyst. The Bartholin gland is located just inside
the entrance of the vagina and it normally secretes a substance which helps to keep things
lubricated. Sometimes the opening to the duct gets clogged and then gunk backs up inside,
a lump forms, and if several days of soaking it by sitting in a bathtub doesn't loosen
things up, then it needs to be--you should pardon the expression--lanced (cut open) and a
small catheter inserted to keep it open until all the stuff inside has drained out.
Well, the procedure is a 4-handed one. And since Dr. G can do everything but hasn't yet
mastered the art of developing a second set of hands when needed, I got my first
experience in hands-on care. I have to admit I really enjoyed being a part of it. I
separated and held, he cut and drained and the patient very patiently let us perform this
assault on her coochie snorcher (The Vagina Monologues has made that part of my
There was blood. There was gunk. There was injecting and cutting and pushing and
pulling and in the end, the problem had been solved and the patient went home in better
shape than when she arrived.
Of course I feel like a total dork. "Get me the #11 scalpels," he said. I
didn't know we had scalpels, where to find them, or how to tell what size they were.
"I need 4 by 4's," he said. I figured out that must be gauze pads--but didn't
know where they were kept. "Pour this," "push that," "hold
that".... all the commands felt awkward, but I did it. I'm sure he's had more
experienced assistants--ANYBODY could be a more experienced assistant, but I'm enjoying
the chance to learn how to get better.
I don't know if I'll continue to do this assisting, now that we have someone who is
experienced in the office. Dr. G may decide to have her help instead. If that happens,
I'll be sad, because I'm enjoying my opportunity to get a taste of what life might have
been like if I'd decided to go into nursing after all.