Lost to Follow-Up

Writing discharge summaries are often the bane of every medical student or resident’s existence. It takes a long time, it quite tedious (especially on peds), and it requires you to go tell the patient how/who they need to follow-up with once they leave, or what labs need to be checked on when the patient leaves the hospital. Now that I have been in the clinical setting for this past year I have seen numerous patients come in who had received care at other hospitals, but because there was inadequate follow up by their doctor (of lab results, medication compliance, etc.), the patient is an absolute train wreck when they come back to the hospital. And to be honest, its pretty easy to be that doctor who doesn’t follow up on your patient. Especially in the inpatient setting where you are bombarded by admissions left and right, you really just want to get the patient out the door and out of your life…to make room for the next wave of patients that will come flooding in. But to be honest, if you don’t make sure that your patient gets adequate follow-up, you might as well have not treated them because that is an integral part of their overall care.

I got a little lesson in follow-up actually as it applies to missions. I have been on various mission trips since I have been in college and while I have truly enjoyed my time and the people I have met on each trip, I have had the bad habit of never truly keeping in contact with the people I met once I get back to the states. Its somewhat of an out of sight out of mind type of thing. When I went to Zambia the summer after my freshman year of medical school, I helped deliver a baby boy whom the mother named after me. My wife and I really became close with the family and even stayed with them for 2 nights before we flew back to the States. Here is his picture:

So this cute little kid is my namesake in Zambia, Africa. I kept pretty good contact with the mother and father during my second year of medical school, but once 3rd year hit and I got really busy I honestly stopped emailing or calling. I never stopped thinking of them, but I just didn’t contact them…for like 7 months. So this past weekend I decided to call them via Google Voice (great way to call long distance by the way, and much cheaper than Skype). When the mom picked up she was so incredibly happy to hear my voice…but the part the broke my heart was that she told me that she thought that I didn’t like them anymore and didn’t want anything to do with them since I hadn’t called or emailed in so long. She told me that my namesake was talking now and asks about me all the time, and wants to talk to me. I couldn’t believe that I had let so much time elapse between when I had last called them, and I learned a valuable lesson. As a future missionary, when you leave a country where you have served, you leave behind people that truly love you. While you are busy in the day to day affairs of your life back home, they are wondering what you are doing and longing to hear your voice again, and even more see you. It is so important that you don’t lose these precious souls to follow-up, because you aren’t just dealing with a physical ailment, you are dealing with a soul that you brought to Christ, and you don’t want to botch that up.

So yeah, I have been rebuked and I will not let the busy American life get in the way of nurturing the relationships I formed while overseas. I had my pediatrics mock board today so I had previously been busy studying, but now that I am free I plan to call them back and hear my namesake talk to me for the first time!

One Response to Lost to Follow-Up

  1. MzLolaBabs says:

    Today was the first day of my first rotation, and 70% of my day was spent watching the Attending complete discharge summaries, and I thought about the same exact thing you’ve described here regarding follow ups! This was an excellent story, and I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts!

    Keep the entries coming! I love your blog!

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