Healing Reflections: "Outside the Box" by Patricia McCafferty, M.D.

Feb 13, 2021 | Hannah Schlotthauer, Administrative Assistant | @schlohan

"Outside the Box"
Story by: Patricia McCafferty, M.D. | Mayo Clinic Health System

Last March during a flurry of emails and meetings we were advised to go through our schedule and evaluate whether patients were routine or urgent.  Our clinic was essentially closed to in-person visits.  Many patients were canceled, and schedules were empty.  I was instructed to do the same but being stubborn and bit rebellious—which has gotten me in trouble before— I did not cancel my patients.

It seemed to me that because my schedule was so tight that I would not be able to reschedule in 6-8 weeks.  I spent the weekend considering this and looking at my schedule.  On Sunday afternoon I decided to go ahead and start calling my patients for Monday.  I talked to them about COVID, reassured them that we were still available, updated their prescriptions, made sure they were stable and then asked them to reschedule at our usual interval.  This is before we could charge for phone calls and I did this on my own time because I felt it was important to stay in touch given the sometimes-fragile nature of our patients.  It was also helpful to me as one of the people I spoke to was a war veteran and we talked about how this felt like waiting for a battle to start.  I remember feeling very energized, scared, but productive. We didn’t know what to expect but staying busy helped.

Many of the providers in my department followed the rules and did not see patients.  The clinic was empty for the most part. I came to the department one day in early March to take a picture of my office to use as a virtual background to provide some sense of familiarity.  My office is famous for being full of plants and finds.  My patients joke that it is "the jungle".  It was very ominous as no one was around; it was very quiet, and the lights were low.  I took photographs of the hallway and my offices as I did not expect to be back on campus for weeks or months.

I appreciated Dr. Blair's daily emails on how to set up virtual visits.  I researched billing codes and visit templates.  I gathered this information together, pulling out the gems from the storm of emails, condensing it and forwarding it to the rest of our department. I kept notes and sorted through the requirements for virtual visits and set up a home office.

By Monday morning I was ready. I emailed my department administration and scheduling about setting up video visits for my patients. I was advised that this was not yet possible but that a pilot visit could be arranged for Friday. The patient involved agreed to allow other staff to sit in during her visit so that we could all learn the process.

I was proud when Scott mention that our department was way ahead of everyone else in getting video visits going.  I was very proud that I did not reschedule and kept going with my patient contacts.  Our head nurse told me that the nursing staff were very appreciative as they were worried about layoffs.  We were able to keep our team together in the early months of COVID even when the department was essentially closed.

My ability to pivot, continue patient care, pull my department towards a new format for visits, and keep our nursing staff on the team will be one of the highlights of my career.  I hope it makes up for some of the times when I have questioned the rules and made things a little more difficult for my administration.


Art by: Paige Norgaarden

Paige Norgaarden is a recent graduate from the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, where she earned a B.F.A. in Graphic Design. Throughout the four years of Paige’s studies, she became obsessed with color and typography and took every studio class she could get her hand on learning different techniques.

After reading Patricia McCafferty’s story on her experience last March dealing with the start of the pandemic, four words popped into my head. Those four words were: Bold, Innovative, Empathy, and Resourceful. In her story, Patricia talks about how she tried to continue on with her regularly scheduled appointments with her patients. She worked hard to get Zoom set up as quickly as possible and conduct meetings from her office instead of staying at home, to keep her clients feeling like life was as “normal” as it could be at the time. This is where the four words come in; Patricia was bold and innovative and resourceful to be the first person in her department to begin zooming her patients. Her empathy for them and trying to make her appointments as normal as possible speaks to her dedication. I decided to stencil these four words onto a canvas as an ode to Patricia’s determination to keep her meetings with her patients as normal as possible. At the same time, I have made the letters overlap and bump into each other as well as included crazy colors to show the busyness and show the chaos that was felt during March 2020.


For more information about the Healing Reflections gallery or to get involved with the project, contact Sara Martinek.

To discuss the latest on Post-COVID Syndrome, head over to the Post-COVID Recovery discussion group.

Interested in more newsfeed posts like this? Go to the Post-COVID Recovery blog.

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