They work in the city and in the country. They are surgeons and gynecologists and researchers. They are satisfied and frustrated. America's doctors are a diverse group, with different backgrounds and different dreams. But they have one thing in common: a lot to say. Here are the thoughts of nine of them.
ANTHONY BOLLINO: A Day Off . . . Isn't Really a Day Off"
Dr. Anthony Bollino, 41, is a family physician who has been in solo practice for 10 years in Cumberland, Md., population about 25,000. His wife, a nurse practitioner, works with him. He was interviewed by Susan Okie.
It's more hectic than I expected it to be. When you enter practice, you always have the idea that you can construct your practice the way you want it to be. That didn't happen with me . . . Often, you find that when people call, you respond, you say, "Sure."
I see 150 to 160 patients a week, and I guess two thirds of those are regulars. The rest are emergencies or episodic treatment. I start about 7:15, 7:30 and I work straight through -- we don't take a lunch hour. I get home about 8 o'clock . . . There's the unusual day you get home at 11 or 11:30 at night.
There were times not too long ago when I'd put the kids to bed on Sunday and I wouldn't see them till Thursday night. The really hard part is when they're around, you're so tired and you have the different things you want to do, like trying to read -- you really feel torn among your different obligations.
The longest I take off is two weeks . . . In the last couple of years, I've been cutting back a little on vacations. I haven't scheduled any time off yet this year. But I will.
I get too tired. Yet, when patients don't come, I get frustrated. I wouldn't want to be less busy. But I don't want to be more busy. When the flu season hits, it's terrible.
Working with my wife is one of the ways we get to see each other. She helps a great deal because she really does just about anything in the office. She does a lot of the dictations, she does the Pap smears . . . I would like to find a way to utilize her more effectively as a nurse practitioner . . . but it's fine. I can get a quick hug between patients, and it helps.
We get to know our patients pretty well, and that's very pleasant. You get to feel that you and the patient are pretty close -- not exactly family members, but good friends. I know there are instances where knowing what was going on with other family members helped me understand why a patient was coming in. For example, where a husband and wife aren't getting along and each is coming in with his or her own somatic complaint.
My home phone number is in the phone book and on the office answering machine tape. I just think if you're going to do it right, you should be available . . . and I like to know what's going on.
Patients try to help me -- they don't abuse the phone. I don't think there's the old concern about being almost obeisant, but they're appreciative.
Some patients still complain at times. I think you're going to find people you just can't please and can't get along with.
One of the things about a day off is, it isn't really a day off. You spend it working on paperwork. I put in at least six to eight hours. My secretary spends one day a week just on Medicare forms. You feel you're doing so much paperwork and getting so little satisfaction out of it.
Every once in a while I'll sit down and say I wish I could be a carpenter or something like that. But I wouldn't want to be anything else.