Posted tagged ‘the doctor’s office’

We Live in Two Different Worlds Dear

December 12, 2009

        For those of you not familiar with bluegrass music, pick up an old LP by Jim and Jesse McReynolds and give it a listen.  Jesse is world-famous for his cross-picking mandolin style, and their harmony work is as tight as it gets.

        Their songs always tell a story too.  Like books, songs can have different messages for different folks.  ‘Two Different Worlds, Dear’ had a special connotation for me, and it’s unlikely it’d be in the way you might think. 

       Year ago we had an employee who didn’t see eye to eye with me.  She wasn’t a bad person; we were just different.  She wanted to upgrade our ‘image’ at the office.  Once a salesman convinced her we needed some background music.  She chose some awful canned music, and was quite unhappy when I nixed the deal.  I sure wasn’t gonna pay all that money if the man didn’t have anything by the Stanley Brothers.  She didn’t like the Stanleys, a bad sign. Her idea of lunch was to close the office and all go eat at some fancy restaurant to improve morale.  I favored a take-out bucket of chicken to share with the patients. 

         Over the years we don’t have many former employees.  Most have been with us for decades.  The few who have left always parted due to some variation of a theme, though.  They all believed the organization should be about them.  I believe it should be about the patient.  She aspired to be our PR person and wanted a ‘corporate’ membership at the club so she could spend the day over there and be our public representative to bring more ‘money’ people into the practice.  My perspective was if we took good care of our patients that was all the PR we needed.

        When she left she said she just didn’t understand why we couldn’t get along.  I felt bad ’cause she cried about it, but it just wasn’t meant to be.  I told her the answer was in Jim and Jesse and she asked who they were.

        She  has been very successful since then and now runs the lingerie department in an upscale ladies store.  We don’t cross paths.  I guess it’s ’cause we live in two different worlds.  

        From what I hear my old colleague is a pretty good sales lady.  I thought about trying to get her to sell a few tickets for the next big show in town, but decided it was best to leave it be.  I can’t be anything but what I am and I guess she couldn’t either.  Some folks just don’t see the world the same way and that is okay.         

Dr. B


The New Modern Multi-Specialty Complex (Home is Where the Heart is)

September 23, 2009

        The new office is a modern, efficient, multi-specialty clinic.  It offers all the newest services.  There is no question it is better for patients.  When I am worried someone has a clot in their leg I’ll be able to send them downstairs for an ultrasound, get an answer from a Board Certified radiologist in real time, and have it all done on a co-pay rather than have to farm them out all over town.  This is a good thing.  

        Perhaps the best benefit of the impact on the competition.  They used to grumble at times about being ‘inconvenienced.’ Now they fall all over themselves to help my patient when we call to arrange some of the tests we don’t do in house.  I don’t understand how people can forget it, but the patient rules.  Without them we have no reason to be.  I am glad the competiton is there to spur us on, too.  Whatever health care system emerges, the patients should be empowered by choice and freedom.  If a doc or an institution gets lazy and does not live to serve they need to get canned as a reminder of why we are there.  It ain’t so we can belong to the Country Club.

        Even though the office is new, I guess there is room for one gray haired old-fashioned doc.  I hope so.  I set up my personal study to be an exact replica of my old one.  I have the same desk and bookshelves.  I do have a new desk chair per request of the boss, but I kept the blue ‘C.F. Martin & Co. est. 1833’ director’s chair that came from Johnny’s Jewelry and Pawn.  

        My door looks more like the entrance to a bluegrass night club than a doc’s study.  Someone already grumbled it looked unprofessional.  I like that.  So do 98.93 % of my patients.  Many of them are bluegrass.  Bill Monroe still stands guard at the door.  Memorabilia from years of Neuse River shows covers the door alongside Bill’s larger than life picture.  My family still watches over me right by my desk.  The same signed photos of artists of everyone from Scruggs to Hartford to the obscure are scattered around.  There is a poster of a young Darin Aldridge, and one of Butch Baldassari from one of his Nashville mandolin seminars.  My office ‘Little Martin’ guitar sit behind my desk in case the power goes off and I need to gather the flock.  My Kentucky mandolin is out on loan, but it’ll be back next month.  I have all my old books, though much of the text has been rendered obsolete by on-line data bases.

        All my old staff is there.  Lynn and Myrd are closing in on a quarter century.  We merged with another fine group of fine folks.  They seem great, but just in case I built in the same old safe-guards I had before.  If anyone on the office staff is ever rude to my people, there is a secret code word that’ll straighten it out, and my folks know how to find me.  

        It will be rare this will be needed though.  For some reason no one ever seems inclined to make my people mad.  Along the way we had a few who did, but they don’t work there anymore.  My people are all I got and I intend on sticking by them to the end.

        I’m gonna stick by my office people too.  One time a patient took to cussing one of them.  I told him these ladies work harder for him than I do.  If he was gonna cuss someone he’d either have to chew on me or go somewhere else to the doctor.  He apologized.  I still see him. 

        I know people aren’t at their best when they are sick and I try to make allowance for that.  But I am getting older.  I used to allow three cussings per patient before I’d get too bothered by it, but I put the word out I am too old for all that now.  With the new place I cut my limit to one.  So far, everyone seems to go along. 

        We are near the tracks.  When the train comes through it isn’t loud enough to disrupt patient care, but when the whistle blows it does remind me all of life is not sickness and other adventures await.  Maybe Corporate shouldn’t have chosen that location, because that lonesome pull of the train whistle reinforces my independent streak every time she passes through.  Bluegrass folks love trains.

        Bill Monroe is on my door for a reason.  When you come into my office, you have to go right by him.  Monroe was a proud man, and stubborn to a fault.  I keep him there to remind me I need to work on flaw in myself.  At the same time Monroe was devoted to excellence, and took no grief from anyone less committed to their craft.  I like that part of Monroe.  

        Even though we are new and modern I don’t want anyone to forget I am doc, not a businessman.  I figure every modern multi-specialty complex needs an old curmudgeon and I am ours.  Someone has to remind us where we came from and not to get above our raising.  It has to be me.  I am the only one who is old and gray enough to get away with it.

       So far the new office is a good gig.  As Grisman says, home is where the heart is.  As long as I have a stethoscope and a few folks to try to help out, I’m okay.

Dr. B

The Old Office

September 18, 2009

        The old office was like a favorite uncle.  Just ’cause you knew his time had come and gone didn’t make you love him any less.  It’d seen thousands of sick folks, but it took time out to hear some mandolin music and fishing stories.  Everyone had a cake on their birthday back when I was the ‘boss’ if we really had one.  If the office had been a person it’d be about like Indie;  full of character and not one bit ashamed of being human.

          It had its flaws.  It was drafty and cold in the winter and every summer it got so hot in room six you couldn’t use it most afternoons.  Corporate let me keep my desk even though it had nicks and gouges and a few missing drawer handles where kids had tugged on them over the years.  The chairs in my study were condemned, though.  The stuffing showed through and they were deemed unfit for a brand new modern medical multispecialty complex.  (I don’t think we are supposed to call it an office)

        We only worked ’till lunch the last day then it was a mad dash to move and crank up for the new crib.  I’d already put away my favorite photos of my family.  The one of my wife was the picture they put in the Harvey Herald for our engagement.  My children were frozen in time as toddlers.  I promised to add a few recent ones after the kids protested they were too far out of date even for old Dad. 

         I got out my mandolin and tried “When You’re Smiling.”  A picture of Bill Monroe hung on my door by a single tack.  I put it aside along with a faded one of Earl Scruggs as a kid.  I’d put them up in the new office even if corporate objected.  Some things never change.

         By noon-thirty the movers had taken most of the furniture.  I dictated my last chart and downloaded to the computer, then they whisked it away.  Soon we were down to cell phones.

        I picked a few bars of  ‘Blues Stay Away From Me.”  Someone brought a pizza.  We ate and then most everybody left.  Then it was the ‘East Tennessee Blues’ in honor of Knoxville where I trained years ago.  The notes bounced around the empty building.  It was down to me, Lynn O’Carroll, and Myrd, the original three musketeers who started the practice on a shoe string.  At times we barely kept it all tied together.

       Lynn carted out a few more boxes.  “Me and Myrd are going on.  You coming, Doc?”

        “Yeah, I’ll be over in a minute.  I’ve got time to get a haircut but I’ll be on over.”

        “You okay?”


         Their foot steps echoed down the hall.

         A dust bunny rolled by.  I smiled and took a stab at ‘Tumbling Tumbleweeds’ but didn’t know the whole tune.  I put my mandolin in the case and carried it to the back door. 

        I closed the door, turned the key in the lock, and didn’t look back.  We had done our best.

Dr. B