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Friday Jun 15, 2018

What I Learned as a New Physician

(Editor's note: The Fresh Perspectives blog launched in 2014 for new physicians who have been out of training for no more than seven years. Beth Oller, M.D., leaves the blog with this final post as she enters her eighth year of practice. We thank her for all her contributions to Fresh Perspectives.)

[Beth Oller, M.D., and staff]

Here I am (center) with my nursing staff (left to right) Amanda Claridge, Heather Mackey, Wendy Walker and Traci Knipp. Surrounding yourself with people you enjoy working with -- and who make you better -- is critical.

It doesn't seem possible that this summer marks seven years since my husband and I graduated from residency and moved to rural Kansas to open our own practice. This means that we have "graduated" once again and are no longer considered new physicians; as such, this will be my last post for Fresh Perspectives.

My family has grown. We got married the summer we moved here, and we now are parents of three. My practice has grown, and I have grown as a physician and as a person. Looking back, I see what a rich, full seven years these have been.

Seven years ago, I had a patient roster of zero and some trepidation because I knew the practice had to grow and be consistent to be sustainable. I now start every clinic day with a full schedule, and although the numbers are important for the survival of our practice, the joy is seeing patients who I now know well.

Seven years ago, it was a new experience to leave an exam room and not run the patient and my plan by an attending, and it was overwhelming at times. Now there are fewer things I need to look up, and when I need help, I know where to go. I came from medical school and residency in metropolitan areas where gaining access to subspecialty referrals was not difficult. In a rural area, almost all referrals require significant travel, so I have developed an amazing network of subspecialist colleagues who help my patients and me when needed, and they work to understand the complexities and challenges that treating patients in a rural area poses.

In the beginning, I was nervous about practice management and how we would navigate unknown waters. It hasn't been easy, and there definitely have been bumps along the way, but we have figured out the important parts and are lucky to have had great partners to help show us the way.

I have had the opportunity to mentor numerous medical students and residents in my practice, and I hope their experiences with me have been as positive as mine were with my mentors. Students and residents help remind me why I chose medicine because I get to see our profession through their eyes. For them, everything is new, and even the most routine procedure is a chance to learn.

It can be easy to forget that what we do every day -- and the lives we are invited into -- is based a unique relationship of trust. I appreciate teaching because it reminds me of this.

I've learned important lessons and some practical things along the way, which I would impart to other new physicians.

Keep up with your charting. This is important. REALLY IMPORTANT. Having an inbox that is under control and charts signed off lets you take better care of patients and will make your nurses and billing staff happy.

Surround yourself with people you like working with and who make you better. If there is someone whose attitude drags down those around them, it might be time for a staffing change.

Model a culture of caring and improvement to those on your team. It's tough to ask those around you to do more (even in the name of improving patient care) because we all have a lot on our plates. But if they see you work hard and believe in the importance of the process, they will follow your lead.

We have become part of our community in a meaningful way, and I have experienced a level of connectedness to the place in which we live in a way I had not felt when living in larger cities. I see patients and friends everywhere I go -- the gas station, grocery store, the library -- and my patients and friends are often one and the same.

I have the privilege of watching children and families grow and have delivered three children for more than one family. I take care of four generations of several families, and have attended baby showers, birthday parties, anniversary parties and funerals of patients. Being asked to take part in these events is an honor.

Giving up the anonymity of a large city was a bit of a challenge, but I have happily replaced that experience with attending community events where I know many, with hugs I receive from multiple small patients when visiting my daughter's school, and with patients who watch my children grow and ask me about them just as I check in on their families.

I don't know exactly what the label is when you are no longer a new physician, but I am proud to be entering the next phase of my career. I've made mistakes. I've made improvements. I've learned, and I've taught.

I will continue to work to improve my skills as a physician, as a leader, and as a mentor for those joining our profession. I am appreciative for the opportunity to share that this blog has afforded, and wish success to the new physicians who will take my place.

Beth Oller, M.D., practices full-scope family medicine with her husband, Michael Oller, M.D., in Stockton, Kan.

Posted at 04:58PM Jun 15, 2018 by Beth Oller, M.D.

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