How many patients do you think the average U.S. doctor sees on an average day? If you asked me I thought 20-30 patients a day sounds fair. After some research I found out I wasn’t too far from the average and while the numbers range based on practice or specialty - on the low end a highly-specialized doctor will meet and diagnosis close to 20 patients and on the other side of the spectrum an ER doctor may treat nearly 50 patients during a shift.
Taking into account that seeing just 20 patients takes an incredible amount of skill and expertise, it’s all the more amazing when you consider the news that last Monday 160 people were treated at the New Hope Initiative Olorien Community Clinic in Arusha, Tanzania.
One Hundred and Sixty.
The patients were children, parents, uncles, grandparents, boys, girls, men & women - all ages and the reasons for visits likely ranged from common colds and respiratory issues to growth removals, broken bones and positive malaria diagnosis. Now you are probably thinking, “wow those doctors (plural) were busy that day!”
Yes, Dr. Byemba – the head doctor and only doctor on site that day – was busy as he diagnosed & treated the large majority of all these cases. Much like an ER doctor, Dr. Byemba throughout the day will go from the exam room to the operating room multiple times and while the instruments are sterilized in the autoclave for the next procedure, he will see the patients not requiring surgery.
To be honest it would be easy to recognize just Dr. Byemba and his incredible work because what he does on a daily basis astonishes almost everyone that has the chance to spend the day with him. But Dr. Byemba would be the first to say that he couldn’t do this alone. The staff – from the clerk checking patients in and the nurses taking vitals to the lab technicians analyzing samples and the pharmacist distributing medications that in many cases will save someone life – together deserve to be applauded for their hard work.
I was raised to always highlight a job well done and just saying “well done” almost doesn’t seem sufficient when it comes to a person’s health and life. Yet, it’s a great place to start when recognizing the amazing staff that serve this small community in Tanzania six days a week. It is also easy to celebrate when the numbers hit 160 but how much more would you commend their work if you then found out that on Tuesday more than 120 people came, on Wednesday nearly 130 and they averaged that for the rest of the week. On Saturday evening as the front gates closed more than 800 people had passed through the clinic and this small dedicated staff of nurses, technicians, clerks and pharmacists led by Dr. Byemba brought comfort and in many cases healing to a community. When you watch the news and you hear about so many terrible things happening around the world – please take a moment and think about this amazing team in O’Lorien and smile knowing that there are people still doing great things and pursuing work on a daily basis that it so much greater than themselves.
By T.J. Walter - Olorien Clinic Project Director