Hitting a Nerve

An unplanned ‘vacation’


Looking back at the calendar, I realized that the insane year of 2020 will be the first in memory that I never took a vacation. Not a single trip outside the Phoenix metropolitan area. For that matter, there were only a handful of times I even ventured beyond the borders of Scottsdale.

Dr. Allan M. Block, a neurologist is Scottsdale, Ariz.

Dr. Allan M. Block

The vacation is such an ingrained part of western culture that it’s hard to believe I haven’t gone anywhere since a cruise in November, 2019, and I have no vacation plans in the foreseeable future.

Do I feel horribly stressed from the lack of time off? Mmmm … Not really.

I suspect a big part of that is because I have had a lot of time off, albeit unintentionally. Looking back at my schedule, the last completely full day of patients was March 12, 2020. Since then I’ve averaged days that are only one-quarter to one-third full.

One of my idols, Dr. Arlan Cohn, once wrote “When holes appear in your appointment schedule, celebrate.” So, as he suggested, I use the extra time with the patients I do have and organize my drug samples. But there’s only so much time you can spend with a patient before you both get bored, and at this point my sample cabinet is about as organized – and devoid of expired drugs – as it can be.

In the modern age a lot can be handled by email, so if I’m done at the office I’ll often head home and nap, then answer patient queries for the rest of the day.

From a practical viewpoint, you could argue that, since mid-March, 2020 has been a strange, slow-motion vacation. Realistically, I’ve probably had more time off this year than I ever have, even if I haven’t gone too far. My kids have been home from college, giving me more time with them than I thought I’d have, and that’s been an enjoyable plus.

Of course, there are limits to any trip. At some time you reach the point where you’re sick of the whole thing and want your normal life back. I’m there now. There’s only so much nonwork you can do before you start climbing the walls, and obviously the financial worries take over, too. Seeing patients is how I earn a living.

At this point, like many other doctors, I’m ready to go back to the regular world of practice. I just have to hope that the regular world is going to come back to me.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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