These were the bookends of my day.
This was just a normal day. Other people's crises are my new normal. My first patient was a pregnant woman who did not want to be pregnant- we went over the pros and cons of medical vs surgical abortion while she made her way steadily through the box of tissues in Counseling Room 2. Anyone who thinks this is an easy choice to make, or a comfortable corner to be backed into (because believe me, this woman didn't have much of a "choice") is flat out delusional. No one is flippant about having an abortion. Not everyone cries about it so openly, but the gravity of the act is palpable every single time*. Her visit was all over in 20 minutes, and there's nothing else for me to do, except shake it off and take the next patient.
You never know what's going to follow the open ended question: "So what brings you here today?" When you might be expecting something about itching and a discharge based on the boxes they checked on the form we gave them to fill out, you might be on the receiving end of a convoluted story about an abusive relationship, broken bones and torn skin and all, that ended with stalking and a restraining order. And then at the end of all that she might say "I have this weird pain next to my hip bone that feels like a tumor" and you know that she came in because she needed someone to talk to.
And then it's time to shake it off and take the next patient. Again.
With any luck there's a break in the drama and it's someone who needs their annual to renew their birth control for another year. Those are easy. Preventative. Responsible. You get to say, "Thanks to healthcare reform, your co-pay is waived for this visit!" and you send them on their way with a fistfull of pill packs and a baggie of condoms.
Some other things I heard today: "my girlfriend tried to tell me she got chlamydia from a toilet seat. I totally didn't believe her. But I shared a bong with my friends- could I have given it to them? Like, through my spit?" Nope, dude, chlamydia is exclusively sexually transmitted. I'm so glad you dumped the girl. Now show me your veins, so we can see where I'm gonna stick you with this needle.
Which brings me to venipuncture. It's an unexpected joy at this job- I'm now fully trained in phlebotomy and let me tell you, there are few things as satisfying as that heavy squirt of blood into a vacuutainer from a properly punctured vein. I've done countless blood draws by now and I'm still not tired of it. On Friday I worked at one of the busy downtown clinics and almost every patient needed a blood draw. I'm still new enough that it's exciting every time (how tiny are their veins? Are they soft or are they going to bounce out of my way whenever I try to stick them? WILL I HAVE TO USE THE BUTTERFLY?). I've become good enough at it that people often say "wow, I hardly felt that!". I'm good enough that I rarely miss, even when people tell me that everyone has trouble finding their veins.
It feels good to hold on to this little piece of mastery when so many people I see have unsolvable problems.
*I just want to make it clear that I don't work in a center that performs abortions. I work in family planning centers, which means we dispense birth control and do infection checks, STI screenings, and well-woman visits. I don't have any objection to assisting with abortions, but those job openings in our affiliate require someone who's bilingual.