By Kate Clemente
This spring, I was offered the opportunity to move from Gifford Primary Care to the Sharon Health Center to join the Orthopedics and Sports Medicine team. I wanted to share a little bit about my clinical background and why I decided to make the move to Orthopedics and Sports Medicine from Primary Care.
Orthopedics and Sports Medicine have been my long-time passion. I’ve always been very athletic, playing Varsity Soccer and Lacrosse in Montpelier and skiing in the winters. After high school, I gravitated more to individual sports such as rock/ice climbing, backcountry skiing, hiking and mountain biking. Throughout my athletic career, I have suffered innumerable injuries. Having positive interactions with the professionals, including athletic trainers, physical therapists, chiropractors and orthopedists, who treated these injuries and helped me recover was what initially sparked my interest to pursue Orthopedics. I think having experienced many of the injuries I now treat, gives me a unique perspective and allows me to empathize with my patients. Initially, after graduation, I worked in Orthopedics for four years assisting in surgical procedures and working in the outpatient clinics doing non-surgical orthopedic care. During this time, I had wonderful surgeons and other associate-level providers as mentors. With this training, I was able to develop a great depth of knowledge and skills to match.
Despite loving Orthopedics, I wanted to return to Gifford Health Care to work in a smaller more intimate hospital setting where you are treated more like family than an employee.
My experience working in Gifford Primary Care. I had done a quick stint at Gifford about a decade ago under the tutelage of long-time primary care physician, Dr. Ken Borie. When I returned to Gifford in 2018, I once again worked in Primary Care and developed deep relationships with the patients and other providers. However, I was missing the hands-on element that orthopedics provides. I also find great joy in helping patients feel better physically and getting them back to activities they love. Whether that is a formal team sport, martial arts, gardening, weight training, cycling, skiing, hiking, walking or any other physical activity they love.
In Primary Care, I would treat an orthopedic injury every couple of weeks. Now I get to do what I’m good at and very passionate about regularly.
Caring for people runs in my family. My mother is Physician’s Assistant. She’s been working in a Federally Qualified Health Center in Plainfield, Vermont for more than 40 years. Her mission has always been to provide care to an underserved population; which is what keeps her going today, working part-time at 72-years-old. She has such a dedication to her community.
Every mother-daughter day I chose to follow her around. Following in your parent’s professional footsteps is a unique bonding experience, because you can share the same language. I think this is particularly true in medicine. My mom knows what it’s like when I have a bad day or when I have bad news for a patient. Nobody outside of medicine quite grasps the enormity of what we take on, especially in primary care. Your patients are like your extended family. The difficult days are difficult and the wonderful days are wonderful, so to have somebody who I can call and share that with is amazing.
Having a strong relationship with my supervising physician is integral to performing my job to the best of my abilities. My scope of practice is determined in part by my supervising physician. In Primary Care, that was Dr. Borie. Many supervising physicians also act as mentors and guides. Now that I am in Sharon, that role is being filled by Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. Alexander Orem. Currently, my scope of practice includes treating orthopedic injuries (including fractures and soft tissue derangement), degenerative conditions and sports-related injuries as well as ordering and interpreting imaging studies (x-rays, CTs and MRIs). I can do most of the procedures that one would expect to have available in an outpatient orthopedic setting including corticosteroid and visco-supplementation injections, splinting and casting.
As a midlevel, if I encounter an issue that I feel I do not have the knowledge or skills to treat I always consult my supervising physician or another doctor. They have more schooling and formal training than I have.
I am taking same-day and next-day appointments. This has been really rewarding for me as I can see someone as soon as they are hurt or if they are suffering from a more chronic condition, I’m able to decrease the time they have to wait for the issue to be addressed. I hope this availability is going to be great for the community. Even in the few weeks I’ve been in Sharon, people tell me how excited and happy they are to be seen so quickly. They’re coming in and saying, “Thank you so much for getting me in.” To be able to access people more quickly feels great. I hope that, no matter how busy we get, we can always accommodate people as quickly as possible. We want to get patients in, get them seen and keep them from utilizing more expensive services like Urgent Care or the Emergency Room. I’m seeing patients from eight years old and up and I’ll be focusing mostly on the extremities.
There’s huge potential for student-athlete outreach. I hope that I can just add to that level of accessibility. It’s not just me. We have our chiropractic team, podiatrists and physical therapists here. So, we really can provide comprehensive care spanning the gamut. If we can’t do it here, we’ll get you to the right person. Our wonderful athletic trainer has been sending lots of young athletes to us to get assessed so they can get back on the playing field as quickly as possible.
Having been an athlete in Vermont, in a small community where athletics are really important, I understand the desire and drive to get up and running as quickly as you can.
If you would like to reach out to me, give the Sharon Health Center a call at (802) 763-8000 and ask to come on in and see me!