Walking in My Shoes, Part 1
7/23/2014 12:55 PM
By Beth Adams, DO
This month I thought I’d take some time to give you all the insider’s look into a day in the life of a congenital cardiologist. This is meant to be an average day, not one that necessarily stands out in my mind. I hope you enjoy this insider’s scoop:
The alarm clock goes off, but I’m already awake and have been for a little while. I run my mental list of the day’s tasks, focusing on anything that may be outside the norm. Up and out of bed, and I hit the road by 615. My drive to the hospital takes about 30 minutes, and I use the time for a rare bit of relaxation, listening to the radio and catching up on the news.
Our morning case conference starts at 7 a.m., and after grabbing a cup of coffee, I walk through the door only about 5 minutes late, better than my usual. Congenital cardiology is complex, and I can honestly say that no two patients are ever the same. For this reason, most teams have a weekly case conference to discuss unusual situations. In my case, I find it helpful to pick the brains of the older and more experienced members of my team, because in our business, experience (and the ensuing gray hair) counts for a lot.
After an hour or so of lively discussion about the best course of action for each patient, I sneak out of conference a few minutes early to check on one of “my” babies down in the pediatric ICU. I say he’s mine simply because he was born and diagnosed under my watch, and I will likely be the one to follow him long-term. The baby is doing fine, but Mom definitely needs some cheering up, so I do my best to paint a sunny picture while at the same time being honest and realistic about his prognosis.
After my PICU visit, it’s off to the outpatient clinic, which means driving across town to our outpatient office. I have peds clinic this morning, and then this afternoon I will go across the parking lot to the adult congenital office and see patients there for the rest of the day. Despite looking at my daily schedule ahead of time, I’ve learned that the day rarely goes as planned.
As I sit down at my desk for a few minutes of answering emails and returning phone calls, there is a tentative knock on the door and one of the med students sticks her head in. “Dr. Adams? I’m working with you today,” she announces. In most academic medical centers, there is a constant stream of “learners”—med students, residents and fellows, all hoping to see some interesting patients and learn a bit of cardiology at the same time. While it’s usually lots of fun and often rewarding to have a student in clinic, the trick is to give them a good learning experience, stay on schedule, and still get all of your work done at a reasonable hour—not always the easiest of tasks.
As the morning unfolds, I see the usual contingent of patients, including an innocent murmur, a baby with tetralogy of Fallot, a teenager with chest pain, and others. But the one who sticks in my mind is the youngest of the day, a 9-day-old baby with a very thick heart.
Editor's note: Want to know more about this patient and the rest of Dr. Adams' “day in the life”? Keep an eye out for Part 2 of the post, coming soon.
Beth Adams, DO, is currently both a CHD patient and congenital cardiologist at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, where she cares for adults and children with CHD. She graduated from Ursinus College and then went on to medical school at the University of New England, in southern Maine. Beth remembers ACHA in its infancy, and is delighted at how it has grown and evolved over the years. When not at work, Beth enjoys reading, kayaking, gardening, and spending time with her nephew.