Hot coffee beckons with its promise of contraband comfort on a cold and busy Monday morning. Ms. H, my first patient, has not arrived yet. I consider a quick dash downstairs to the coffee shop. I can usually make it back in 4 minutes.… I glance at my email. You have 2 new PatientSite messages. I stay.
I close the many open windows on my computer and open the link. I approach the blinking vigil of the messages as I might a covered wound—with a mix of curiosity, a desire to help, and a sense of impending doom. I feel two competing desires: to leave the bandage on or lift it off as quickly as possible. A subconscious triage occurs—do I have enough time, attention, and emotional energy to respond in this moment?
The first email is from Diana and it dispels the fog of distracted multitasking. I hear her voice as I read: “Doctora, ¿Como esta? Y la familia…?” She continues, in Spanish: “Thanks for seeing me on Friday. I read your office note. The fever is gone and I am feeling better. Can you schedule the PET scan sooner? Also, when you have a momentico, can you give me a call? I want to ask you about some of the blood tests. Affectionately, Diana.”