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Thursday Jul 05, 2018

Back to Work: Adjusting Bit by Bit

(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. Meshia Waleh, 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.)  

[Meshia Waleh, M.D., and family]

Here’s my family on a recent trip to Sioux Falls, S.D. After taking a two-year break from full-time work to stay home with our twins, I’m adjusting to a new practice in a new town.

What is it like to return to work full-time after I took a two-year hiatus to stay home with my twins? I'm still trying to figure that out after my family's recent move from Columbia, S.C., (population 134,000) to Estherville, Iowa (population 6,000).

Never heard of it? Neither had I before last October. Estherville is a small town with a 25-bed hospital. Those 25 beds include the ER, labor and delivery, inpatient and the ICU. I started here June 1st and it has been great, but I was a little nervous, to say the least.

In addition to moving to an entirely different region of the country, far from family and friends, I am seeing patients on a daily basis for the first time in quite a while. For the past two years, I worked about one day a week and primarily saw pregnant women. I hadn't been seeing the full spectrum of family medicine, so returning to full-scale, full-scope family medicine was a little bit scary.

I'm comfortable, well-trained and have had great experiences in my specialty that made me confident I could jump back in. However, there were reasons to feel apprehensive. For example, I had to learn a new computer system and how to order things that play into how I care for patients -- not just make the medical decisions. I want to do a good job. Don't we all? Fortunately, my nurses are excellent, supportive, hardworking and resourceful.

Things have been good at home, too. Estherville has welcomed my husband and me with open arms. It's the type of town where our neighbors baked banana bread for us and delivered it to our house while it was still hot. I had never had that happen to me before! And then a few days later the same neighbor brought us a bag of fresh asparagus.

When we go to the store, someone will ask, "Are you the new doctor? Welcome to Estherville, and thank you for coming here."

My heart melts.

Of course, we are still adjusting. The house is not settled. We still have many boxes to unpack. Painters are still painting. New carpet will be installed next month. We still need a new stove and dishwasher.

My husband is the best, and he helps me remember our tag line for life: "We're off to our next adventure."

Don't get me wrong; I did work -- hard -- during the two years I was home with our twins. Anyone who has done that knows it is even more of a full-time role than practicing medicine. But now my mind is back to differential diagnoses, medication adjustments and lab follow-ups.

I've also shifted to thinking more about how I can make a difference in my community. How can I make a difference in this small town as the first black female physician who's ever practiced here? How can I impact young minds, especially the young girls, and encourage them to believe that they can achieve anything they want to -- including being both a great mother and professional?

I think the answer is this: bit by bit. That's how I've been focusing on organizing my new house. It's also how I'm focused on learning my health system. And it's how I approach this new grand transition. Bit by bit.

On my first day in the hospital, a nurse told me, "You are exactly where God wants you to be."

"How did you know I needed to hear that?" I asked.

She just looked at me and smiled.

But you know, that's exactly right. I don't know what the years to come may hold for me, my family, my career or Estherville, but I do know I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be for this adventure. Although I've been excited, nervous, scared and exhausted, that's part of the journey, right? All the while having the best adventure of my life.

Meshia Waleh, M.D., is a family physician at Avera Holy Family Hospital in Estherville, Iowa.

Posted at 02:27PM Jul 05, 2018 by Meshia Waleh, M.D.

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