This morning I'm drinking coffee, enjoying a beautiful Spring morning in the desert with the breeze blowing in through the window. In a few minutes I'll start packing up the car and I'll be moving out of my cozy little Navajo Best Western.
I'm really quite sad to be leaving Chinle. Sad like I was when I left Kansas.
This was my first Indian Health Services(IHS) assignment. When you hear people discuss working for IHS they talk about how depressing the experience can be. I don't know where those people worked, but I have no idea what they were talking about. Working at the Navajo hospital here has been one of the most joyful experiences of my career. Chinle Hospital has attracted physicians of incredible quality and talent from around the country. The hospital and clinic staff are approximately 99% Navajo and there is incredible investment into the community as a whole, and the patients are some of the most delightful people I've ever worked for.
Chinle is what you would expect for a rural high-desert community. It's a one-horse town (it's actually a seven horse town- those jerk horses run the place wandering through the streets wherever they want) but it lacks nothing in charm or sophistication. There are only three restaurants, but there is always something to do, from potlucks to yoga, trail running to ultimate frisbee. There's even the random dance party in IHS housing from time to time. And if you look in any single direction you'll see some of the most beautiful and sacred scenery you've ever seen in your life.
So I'm heading out to Albuquerque for the night to visit with a friend, get the desert sand vacuumed out of the car, eat at the Frontier, and use some normal-speed internet. After those simple luxuries, it's up to another Navajo hospital in Shiprock, New Mexico for a few weeks and then off to China.
If you're a physician or nurse who has considered IHS but has been scared off by people's perceptions or comments, I highly recommend you rotate through some facilities as a contractor and get a feel for the system. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at the opportunity to work with great colleagues and a wonderful patient population.
As for me, I'll be back for sure. I just have the curse of wanderlust to deal with first.