Friday, January 31, 2014

Listening to the Patient

After a cold...beaten a month ago...left behind a lingering cough in the chest of my 15 year old, we finally took him to a nearby clinic yesterday.  It's often too much of a bother going to a full-blown doctor, so I've started going to the nearby clinic embedded in a CVS.

Sure, it was "just" a nurse practitioner.  But they take their time, they listen, they do a thorough diagnosis, ask all the right questions, and can crank out a 'scrip from the clinic.  For things like sinus infections or the routine ailments of day-to-day existence, an attentive generalist works just fine.  We got there, filled out an electronic form, and the very moment I'd finished the form, we were seen.

As the pleasant Ghanaian nurse-practitioner ran her way through the testing and poking and prodding, she noted that my insurance card marked me as a "Rev."

"Oh," she said.  "You're a Reverend?"

I said that yes, I was.  "What church?"  I told her about my community.  "I'm Presbyterian too," she shared, smiling.  Cool, I said.  What church?

It was a nearby congregation, one I sorta knew.  You guys just got a new pastor, I said, talking shop.

"Oh yes," she said.  "We're very happy.  But I just wish that it hadn't taken so long.  I can't think of any good reason it should have taken so long."

And she talked for a bit about how her community developed a rapport with their long term interim, and lamented that they couldn't stay.  "We'd just gotten to know them," she said.  "And then it was like we had to start all over again.  It seemed like it was so much harder than it needed to be."

As she wrote up a prescription and printed out a diagnostic report, I marveled at just how consistent this feedback is.  Here I am, striking up a conversation about a new ministry, and what a layperson needs to report has to do not with hopes for the future, but with the unnecessary pain of an over-managed transition.

Yes, I know, I know, interims can be very valuable.

But at a certain point, no matter how much of an expert you are, you do have to listen to the patient.