My dad’s secretary and billing manager was out for the day, so just as children do in the family business, I came to help out for the day. I’m kind of surprised–out of all these years of both wanting to be a doctor and my dad as one–I had never spent a day in his office before. I’ve shadowed plenty of doctors in the hospital, and even interviewed some, but never spent much time in a private practice.
The day started out pretty damn early (7am); most doctors that have their own private practices are basically small businesspeople, and if they’re small enough practices like my dad’s, the doctor is the office manager, accountant, and everything in between.
I mostly answered phones all day, scheduled appointments, took messages, and greeted patients. The highlight of the day was my very first drug rep cruising! I use such a term for a reason: you’re totally being hit on when a drug rep stops by. And I’m only the secretary fill-in for the day. The Scrubs Heather Locklear stereotype isn’t that far off–the Effexor lady was a gorgeous, tall blond, and the others were all incredibly friendly, cheerful, laugh-it-up and ingratiate-thyself people I’ve ever seen. You could ask these people to just about anything and they’d happily comply. A Sopranos *hitman* would hesitate more than a drug rep if you asked each of them to off their own mother (as long as the rep made a sale off it). Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they’re knowledgeable and nice people, but their jobs are basically to schmooze on overdrive.
And granted, the psychoactive pharmaceuticals are some of the most heavily pushed (erm, _advertised_) in the country, but *five* drug reps droppng off pens, stickie pads, M&Ms, and a 20-dollar Hormel Party Pack (“since you doctors are on the Atkins diet, I thought I’d help!”) over the course of an uneventful Tuesday seems a little extreme. The office is covered, blanketed, and pretty much _littered_ with catchy logos on magnets, pyramid-shaped Kleenex boxes, phone message pads, coffee mugs, highlighters, staplers, clipboards, and anything else you could imagine. I even found one of those huge 100-stick red licorice Twizzler tubs, with a drug company logo conveniently stickered on top.
I got a better idea of how private-practice docs work–they get tons of calls from patients and pharmacies requesting prescription refills, calls from nurses and doctors in the hospital requesting consultations, and see patients during the day.
It put things the most in perspective when I found out a bit about some of the patients: my dad had seen one since the time I was born, another had had bipolar disorder for 10 years and now has colon cancer, and another is depressed, had several deaths in her family, and is currently going through chemotherapy for breast cancer. I’m more fortunate than ever for my health, and the health of those around me.