Being a hospitalist keeps that spirit alive. “It gives me the gift of time to spend with patients,” he says. “I try not to tie frail elderly patients down with IVs, Foley catheters, EKG monitors, worries that eating a leafy green vegetable will react badly with their Coumadin [warfarin], and polypharmacy.”
He discusses advanced directives, palliative care, and how the elderly in fragile condition can maintain as much freedom as possible. The hospital medicine group’s accommodating scheduling allows time for his parish duties and medical mission trips.
The group’s medical director, Victor Hirth, MD, describes Dr. Petit as a borderline workaholic who’s always looking for ways to make things better for the practice and patients. “The patients absolutely love him because he takes time to sit and talk to them,” says Dr. Hirth.
Dr. Petit also embraces new technologies. “Our [electronic medical record] makes working with my outpatient colleagues smooth and straightforward.” He relies on a personal digital device assistant for updates on clinical guidelines and optimal drug doses for elderly patients. Integrating a healer’s touch with new technology he says: “While medicine is a science, it’s still an art, a ministry, and a gift.”
Back in South Carolina, Dr. Petit has picked up his hospitalist and pastoral responsibilities without missing a beat. He looks forward to building the palliative care consulting service and intends to launch a nonprofit corporation to receive donations to support the Puerto Lempira clinic’s construction.
He is planning more mission trips. He thrives on the work. Infused with boundless energy, he’s always looking for more to do.
“I love what I do,” he concludes. “If I felt much better they’d charge me an amusement tax.” TH
Marlene Piturro is a medical writer based in New York.