Rural Family Medicine

Held an gooey, hour-old baby today. Dodged a wrinkly kiss in the nursing home. Survived a day on family medicine.

My clerkship recently began in the cornfields of an itty-bitty town. The first morning, I pushed open the doors to the office and there sat Rosie, planted on all fours, smiling and greeting me with her wagging tail. She and I became fast friends. We’ve even got this system whereby I give her vanilla wafers in return for her paw. She’ll only shake a hand if food is involved.

I, too, only work when food and future remain at stake. Thankfully, this rotation feeds me for free and my future rests in God’s hands. There remains moments when I feel uncertain about my future, unmotivated to work because… well I wonder, will my efforts ever be good enough? How many books make a good doc? Will my preceptor grade nicely? But then I don’t care. My life is secure in Christ. My future seems bright to lots of patients. They tell me “Good luck!” or “I’m not going to wish you luck because you’re going to do fine without it!”

No secret–the luckiest part about family medicine lies in the name. The patients grow as the staff grows individually and together. I evaluated a baby born one hour before! A physical exam entirely too gooey. Also, no one prepares you for how alien-shaped the posterior cranium looks. Amidst the screaming and the squirming, I’m pretty sure someone pushed out a human because the thing melted my heart into puddles of sparkles and unicorns. Next thing I knew, we drove from the maternity wing and into a nursing home. Doctors watch life pass before them, from beginning moments to the sweet end, growing together.

But the camaraderie within family medicine still puzzles me. I hail from a rotation of internal medicine, a land of calculations overflowing with tests and facts. They round, risk stratify, order. I’m still searching for the hidden script which all the staff and patients read before clinic. The nurses know when to get along. Somebody cued someone to bake cookies. Their kids attend the same schools and churches and camps. I bet my loan money that tomorrow some director will jump out of the medicine cabinet yelling, “CUT!” as patient and doctor finish reflecting on life and leisure. It is like a movie. Families become like family to a family practice doc.

Oh the humanity [of medicine]! Part of me misses the brain busters of internal medicine. All of me longs for the hours of PM&R! But family medicine is good. Lectures and rounds from other specialties haven’t facilitated the same chatting and camaraderie. For now, I am finding what’s important to me and my patients, what’s going on inside and around them, and how to communicate with and learn from each other. All in all, I’d say cheers to another rotation nearly done!



Hopeful notes:

4/5 family medicine rotation done!

Pretty watercolor paintings



  1. Loved reading about this! :] I’m doing a month of rural FM in March, and another month somewhere next year (not sure where yet). I loved talking to and getting to know the patients the best. I’m on the tail end of my ER rotation right now, and although it’s been really interesting, there’s generally no real follow-up since it’s ER, so I’ve definitely been missing that about FM!

    • Good to hear from you, Farrah! Family medicine is wonderful–some of our acute cases reminded me of a “step-down” ER of sorts. Certain patients should have gone to the ER in he first place (which we told them as we sent them over to the little hospital in the town!) I agree with you wholeheartedly about the best part of medicine means seeing patients, confirming that we’re in the right field! What other rotations have you done??

  2. “Will my preceptor grade nicely? But then I don’t care. My life is secure in Christ” I love that line and I can say it never ends. The feeling of not feeling insecure about your future or not good enough. I have to tell myself that everyday even as a resident. How you doing! and happy thanks giving!

    • Eniola! Amen, Christ is more than enough. Tomorrow is my first day of surgery rotation for which I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to run about the halls of a hospital. Trying to see the long days as a gift! And I bet you are an ah-some resident. What specialty? Favorite part? Least favorite? And it will be a happy Thanksgiving so long as family is around :) Blessings to you!


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