Behind the White Coat: A Day in the Life of an Urgent Care Physician
Gloria Lee, MD, is a Physician with Adventist HealthCare Urgent Care. As an Urgent Care physician, she treats patients with minor injuries and illnesses. We asked Dr. Lee what a typical day is like for her and she gives insight on what life is like as an Urgent Care provider.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE FOR YOU?
Dr. Lee: Mornings tend to be very chaotic for me. I wake up, get myself ready and then it’s trying to get my two little girls ready before I head out the door. A lot of running around occurs, trying to get them dressed and fed, and then they wave goodbye from the window as I drive off. Once I get to work, I toast some Pop-Tarts, make coffee and then begin my work day.
My work varies each day depending on the volume and severity of patients that walk through the front door. Urgent Care is on a walk-in basis, so there is never a set routine. Some days I see 55 patients, other days it’s just 30. My day is 100 percent patient care; seeing and treating patients, writing notes, checking labs, talking to specialists, etc.
WHAT TYPES OF PATIENTS DO YOU SEE?
Dr. Lee: In urgent care we see both children and adults who are not feeling well and are unable to see their doctor that day or they don’t have a primary care physician. We treat a lot of colds, sore throats, urinary tract infections (UTI) and people who fall and hurt themselves. We have an X-ray machine on site, a small lab to run rapid tests such as strep or flu and we can suture cuts and splint broken bones. Occasionally, we’ll see patients complaining of chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or vomiting. Sometimes, there are times when we have to help patients get to an Emergency Room when they need further evaluation that we cannot provide.
WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF YOUR DAY?
Dr. Lee: As an urgent care clinic, we will sometimes have multiple patients that walk in at the same time, which can lead to longer wait times. Other times, I may have someone that needs more attention such as a cut that needs to be repaired or a sick patient that needs to be transferred to the ER. Sometimes there is frustration when there is a longer wait, but we do our best to communicate with our patients when a long wait is expected, and we seek to treat everyone efficiently and thoroughly.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT WORKING WITH YOUR PATIENTS?
Dr. Lee: I love being able to come alongside the patient and together create a treatment plan that will hopefully lead them to better health and outcomes. Every patient has their own unique story and circumstances and I love being able to meet them in that place and tailor a plan that is optimal and hopefully effective.
BEING AN URGENT CARE PHYSICIAN, YOU SEE A VARIETY OF PATIENTS. HOW DO YOU WORK TOGETHER WITH NOT ONLY YOUR PATIENT, BUT THEIR PARENTS/FAMILY AS WELL?
Dr. Lee: The friends and family that accompany the patient into the exam room are often the ones involved in the patient’s life, so I think it is very important that they are engaged and informed of the care being provided. Giving the family members a chance to express their concerns and ask questions provides a different perspective and I believe results in better care.
TYPICALLY, WHEN YOU WALK INTO AN EXAM ROOM, YOU’RE FACED WITH A NEW PATIENT. HOW DO YOU STRIVE TO CREATE A COMPLETE DOCTOR PATIENT RELATIONSHIP WITH SOMEONE YOU MAY ONLY TREAT ONE TIME?
Dr. Lee: Patients come in feeling sick, hurt or worried and I believe the most important thing I can do is convince them that I am looking out for their best interest. This involves listening to all their concerns, taking into account their past history and trying to connect with them in that one, short moment. I also try to provide as much education as I can on their diagnosis, prognosis, warning symptoms, follow-up plan and referrals.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO WORK AS AN URGENT CARE PHYSICIAN?
Dr. Lee: I love urgent care and the fast paced, unpredictable nature of each day. I enjoy being able to diagnose and treat patients when they are feeling sick or hurt and provide effective treatments that will make them feel better in a couple of days. I also love performing procedures such as suturing wounds or draining infections and being able to see immediate results and help them in that moment.
HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED ON THE LONG CHALLENGING DAYS?
Dr. Lee: It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you see ten patients waiting, knowing more people will keep walking in. But I try to focus on each patient, doing the best that I can for that person and not worry about the waiting room. I also try to take personal time during the day, even when its busy. Pacing myself is really important, so sometimes I’ll step away to grab a bite to eat, get some fresh air or FaceTime with my kids which always gives me a boost of energy.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU GET HOME FROM WORK?
Dr. Lee: I kick off my shoes, tidy the house if needed and then sit on the couch with my husband where we catch up and just relax. Lately we’ve been addicted to the ‘Good Doctor’, so most nights we’ll try to watch an episode before bed.