My Life as a Locum Tenens: Poplar Bluff, MO (AND ELEPHANT ROCKS!)

City Home Page:
Population: 17,023 (Wikipedia 2019)
Locum Assignment: Level 1 Nursery/Pediatric Hospitalist (Less than 1 week in August 2021)
Food Recommendation: Fuji Poplar Bluff, Dexter BBQ Poplar Bluff, Lemonade House Grill, Bread + Butter, Colton’s Steakhouse, Pizza Inn Poplar Bluff, Foxtrot Coffee
Local Attractions: Elephant Rocks (1.5 hours north of Poplar Bluff, or about halfway between St. Louis and Poplar Bluff), Lake Wappapello State Park

Also knowns as “The Gateway to the Ozarks” this small Southeast Missourian town was a place I never thought I’d end up at, but I had some experiences heading down to this little spot. Unlike most of the small towns I’ve been in, the location of this town within the county, despite the small size of the actual town itself, lended itself to being the primary hospital for most of the surrounding area making it a lot busier than I expected.

The Newborn Channel – One thing I really appreciated from this site was learning about the Newborn Channel. I’ve since learned this is in more places than just Missouri; but, it hadn’t been something I had come across previously in my training. One thing I enjoy about Locums is being able to assimilate various programs and methodologies for advancing, advocating for and spreading knowledge and medicine, and this certainly is one of them. I mean, it’s scary, we can only say SO much in the hospital – realistically, most people are going to turn to google and their family/friends for advice, and this can get them into trouble every now and then. My job is to give parents tools for their new baby, but I can’t possibly give advice for everything aferall.

Cultural Differences (Disclaimer: Controversial thoughts/experiences ahead!) – I try to be aware but not confined by variations or lack thereof in cultural competence and understandings of minority groups, yet don’t be fooled by the cowboy boots… I am aware I am part of a minority group and unfortunately even moreso when it is blatantly pointed out as it was Here. As much as everyone was very polite and nice, I did in my short experience in this town notice and hear clear remarks on minority groups, particularly people of color. It was clearly unintentional, of no malice of forethought and commonplace for the area, but as an outsider from very liberal parts of the country, very starkly loud to me. For a personal touch and to not just conjure these thoughts: 1) I walked into a restaurant and the mouth of the white woman working the register gaped open, unfiltered without a mask, as I walked in to get a take out order; did she think I was going to rob her? Or give her COVID? 2) I sat at the bar of the local brewery my first night in town before I took call and the two White men that sat down next to me gave me very obvious glares as they openly spoke some unintentionally derogatory statements towards some of the Olympians on the TV – I think my favorite comments were on THE CHINESE – I won’t repeat them. Overall, people were kind and friendly, and not bluntly intentionally racist or pejorative, but to say that systemic subconscious beliefs do not still exist in small towns across the US is unfortunately misguided. As a Physician my job is to not act colorblind and take the time to bring self-awareness to my biases as well as observant of how the ones around me affect patient care. Nobody is perfect, I’m not castigating the entire town, but I will say these were words and experiences I have yet to have in my travels around the United States… So I felt it worth mentioning

Pictures of Stuff I Saw – This is an example of a very short assignment that can be privy to a Locum Tenens worker. I enjoyed my time and learned some things, but given the very small amount of time I had off in the evening, I was limited with the site seeing. Nonetheless I highly recommend going to see the Elephant Rocks!!! And if you make it actually TO Poplar Bluff, there’s a brewery, a coffeeshop and an old theater you can see, and that’s probably it.

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