Shadowing: Family Private Practice

I made it a goal of mine to fill my Spring Break with as many shadowing opportunities as I could find and I have actually been quite successful!  I arranged to shadow for three different days in a couple of locations and earlier this week, I had the amazing opportunity to shadow two doctors in a family practice and see what the day-to-day is like for them.

I spent the day following the doctor around (feeling like a puppy), asking questions and observing the interaction with patients in a private practice setting.  It was really interesting to see the interactions between the doctor and patient and to see that much of what goes on is the same from patient to patient.  Since it is a family practice, almost every single patient that was there was there for cold or flu-like symptoms, or for a general physical.  Most patients came in for sore throats, coughing, and overall lousy symptoms that don’t seem to budge.  While listening to the symptoms, I found myself repeatedly thinking that it was so strange that the patients would come in for such mild symptoms, but from a patients point of view, I know that we all do that.  How often do we feel awful and make an appointment to see if the doctor can do something, even though you really know that you just need to rest?  More often than not, the doctor looked at the patient, did all the eyes, ears, nose, mouth checks and then said, “It looks like something that should pass soon.  Get some rest”.  I did have the opportunity to swab someone’s throat for strep, and I got to watch the doctor give a steroid injection into someone’s shoulder, which looked painful!  I saw a swollen joint, which I later learned was Tennis Elbow (it literally looked like a tennis ball over the elbow joint).  I encountered what seemed like “fishing” for percocets, but of course I can’t be sure if that was the case.

Since I had the opportunity to shadow two different doctors, I could see the difference in interaction with the patients and the difference in questions that were asked and suggestions that were given.

I was able to see what the doctor does “behind-the-scenes” when they leave you for a few minutes to get dressed, etc.  Everything that goes on with a patient is later recorded and put on file, so that the record is always available.

Questions that I asked:

1. Why do you like working in private practice as opposed to a hospital?

– Working in a hospital means dealing with a lot of sick people and people that are dying.  Working in family practice means working with and helping generally well people.

2.  What made you want to go to medical school?

-Worked in a lab for a while after graduating college, but decided that medical school would open more doors.

3.  How do you memorize all of the doses and medications that are given?  (I asked this before the steroid injection was given).

-You don’t need to memorize them!  There is a program that allows doctors to look up that type of information and gives dosage, needle size and injection site.  You memorize the things you deal with every day.

4.  Do you ever feel frustrated when you want someone to do something and they won’t listen?

-All the time.  It is also frustrating when the patient wants you to do something and there is nothing to be done, but they don’t understand that.

5.  What is the most alarming thing you have ever seen on a regular visit?

-Someone was having a heart attack, but came in for chest pain.

6.  Do people tell you about their extensive drug use?


7.  What is the future for private practice?

-Insurance companies are micro-managing more and more and making it difficult to have any room to do what you want.

8.  Free samples and drug companies

-Drug companies come in and provide the doctors with free lunch, they dress well and they are really nice.  They show off the drug and explain all the benefits, then leave a lot of samples so the doctors hand them out.  The doctors hand out the samples, the patient has good results with the drug, gets a prescription, goes to pick it up and has a huge co-pay, but now they’re hooked because the drug has helped them.

9.  Reporting people to the DMV for epilepsy

-If a person comes in with epilepsy, it needs to be reported to the DMV because they can no longer drive.

10.  Why do you ask people to describe their pain on a scale from 1-10?

-People come in complaining of awful pain and then they describe their pain at maybe a 3 or 4, so you get an idea of how bad it really is.

11.  Why do you ask people what their fever was?

-People say they have had a fever for days, and then when asked, the number is maybe 99, which is not a fever.

12. Is medical school the way it looks on TV?  As in, no sleep, extremely stressful and the hardest thing you will ever do?

-It’s harder than it looks on TV, but Scrubs is the best representation of medical school life.

13.  Do you still remember chemistry, biochemistry and biology?

-Not really.  Those classes are tough, but they’re to weed people out.  Of course you deal with those sciences indirectly every day, but I don’t remember much from the courses themselves.

14.  When you feel something wrong with yourself, do you find that you know how to diagnose yourself?

-You have an idea of what may be wrong, but it’s important for doctors to have doctors, too.

I can’t think of other questions that I asked, although we talked about a lot more!

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