I would love some commiseration, perspective, and ideas from others who work in large small towns. Not rural and remote where everyone has a long way to go to access care, but small enough that there are rarely many different options. As in: we have a community hospital that is not entirely podunk, but major things get shipped out. We have a busy Ob-Gyn office, for instance, but just the one. There is a bigger regional health system trying to move in on our local hospital so we are starting have one alternative for certain specialties, but seeing and being seen by friends/colleagues/family members as patients is pretty unavoidable. Running into patients out in public is a multiple-times-per-day occurrence.
Most of the time I don't mind having a patient greet me in public. Usually it's something sweet or appropriate like "hey! you saw my son when he broke his wrist last year! you were so great!" But recently I had one seek me out in the locker room at the gym while I was standing at the swimsuit spinner stark-ass naked and telling me all about their dietary changes and health goals. They kept walking away but then coming up with something else to say and coming back.
I deeply dislike having to see the family members of my current or past coworkers. I don't even mind seeing the actual coworkers, but the burden of responsibility for their loved ones and the potential that our friendship or work relationship will get in the way of effective communication and good decision-making weighs on me.
Perhaps the hardest part for me has been seeking my own health care. I delayed addressing my slipping mood for much longer than I should have because my fantastic primary care office (NOT where I work — I don't shit where I eat) has only 2 physicians/APPs that I haven't worked with before. If I needed anything remotely complex I would travel out of town, but it is just not tenable to try to get regular basic health care 1.5 – 2 hours away.
Sorry this turned into a rant, but I would really appreciate ideas for how to deal with (or even just change my attitude about) this situation. Also, vignettes about wildly inappropriate patients in public places are most welcome.
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