Writers' Corner: Medical metamorphosis

Early on in my pursuit of a profession, I was made aware of a new program through the Wisconsin Army National Guard that would pay to train me as a physician’s assistant. After reassurance being female would not be an obstacle, I enlisted.

Subsequently, upon completion of Basic and Advanced Individual Training as a combat medic, I was rejected from the school for being a female. I fought unsuccessfully for two years to get what I was promised. I applied for the PA program at the medical School in Madison, Wisconsin. Once I was accepted to the pre-PA program, I showed up announcing I was there with no housing, money, on a wing and a prayer hoping they would appreciate my effort.

They did.

I supported myself doing freelance house cleaning and working at the eye bank. Upon graduation, I planned to work overseas as a medical missionary. It wasn’t possible because of my outstanding student debt, despite having worked.

Plan B. Rural health care was the original purpose of civilian PA training for returning combat medics who needed legitimate licensing. They were badly needed in rural areas where physicians didn’t want to work. I was employed as a PA long enough to experience medical metamorphosis.

I would have been happy and fulfilled as a horse and buggy doctor paid in chickens, but was born in the wrong generation. Medical evolution’s focus has led to patients being charged exorbitant insurance rates and receiving refusal for life-sustaining treatments. Drug companies now milk clients for mega dollars to obtain essential medications, while at the same time wooing physicians with meals, free gifts, and “educational conferences,” to be spokespersons for their products.

Employees without medical degrees develop a coding system that defines diagnoses, acceptable length of time for a visit, and frequency of visits reimbursable for those diagnoses. Each client is coded as to whether they are seen in a clinic, outpatient or inpatient surgery, hospital, various therapies, assisted living or long-term care. Hospitals evaluate practitioners’ performances by how many patients they see in a day divided into 15-minute slots, regardless of patient outcome. Double booking has become the norm rather than the exception.

My solution was my new service ... Good Neighbor Alternatives. I would take senior patients to and from appointments whether in or out of town, go into their appointments with them, and help them formulate questions and understand instructions. I also kept up-to-date pharmacy, medication and diagnostic lists which many physicians were extremely grateful for. Included in these documents were the names, specialties and contact information for other practitioners.

With the patient’s permission, I would educate their loved ones as to the outcome of the visit. If someone was scheduled for a lab or procedural test, I would be sure they were properly prepared so the test would provide the desired result and that the patient, ordering practitioner and family received the results in a timely manner. When necessary, I would accompany them to a same-day surgery and help them get into the gown, reassure them, and obtain instructions for home. Another service was filling, re-filling and picking up prescriptions. By doing these things, many dollars were saved for the clients, hospitals and insurance companies. I had found my calling, despite the “new medicine” metamorphosis.

Writer’s Tip: When you have a general idea of your story’s content, put it all on paper without editing it. Then, read it through to discover areas needing editing. Read it out loud to yourself and finally read it out loud to someone who can give you feedback. Your mother doesn’t count. It needs to be someone who will give you unbiased feedback.

Bio: Catherine Brady loves to read large amounts of fiction and non-fiction to appreciate other authors’ techniques and descriptive devices. She would love to hear from you about your approaches to writing. Contact her at cgbartist@yahoo.com.

— The Sturgis Writers’ Mill exists to create a community of writers who constructively encourage, support, and challenge each other as they discover their unique voices. Any opinion expressed is solely that of the author.

This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: Writers' Corner: Medical metamorphosis