Doctor working after hours: ‘This is our battle’

Patients call Dr. Wallace Fritz a calm, consistent presence during outbreak

Doctor working after hours: ‘This is our battle’

When Kim Tesch’s phone rang at 9 p.m. on a recent night, her doctor was the last person she was expecting to be on the other end.

She answered the phone and realized it was her physician, Dr. Wallace Fritz.

Earlier that day, Tesch had done an e-visit with Dr. Fritz after telling his nurse that she wasn’t comfortable coming in for a visit because of concerns surrounding COVID-19. However, due to technological issues, their e-visit was cut short.

Dr. Fritz’s nurse told Tesch that he would have to call her back later in the day between patients.

”After about 5:30 p.m. I thought ‘well, I don’t think he’s going to call today,’” Tesch said.

Then her phone rang.

“I was just in shock that he called me,” Tesch said. “He could’ve been spending time with his family or sleeping or anything. It’s kind of out of the ordinary that he would take time to do that.”

For Dr. Fritz, though, calling patients in the evening or working from home is nothing out of the ordinary.

“I often will do that,” Dr. Fritz said. “I think it’s a good time to get a hold of people because it’s important to touch base when I have time and when they have time so I’m not rushed between patients or at the end of the day when people are trying to get dinner ready.”

Tesch and her husband David, who is the creative director for Sanford Health Marketing, found Dr. Fritz’s call to be impressive and a sign of his caring nature. Dr. Fritz, who has a family of his own, provides exceptional care to his patients while also maintaining a work/home life balance.

“When I’m home, I do my best to be intentional. I’ve always got some other thing on my mind, but my family doesn’t deserve to be on the back burner all the time. I’m intentional about the time I’m with them,” Dr. Fritz said.

Dr. Fritz said most nights of the week he makes three or four phone calls to patients from the comfort of his home.

“I work from home at night so I can answer my kids’ math questions in between doing charts.”

Providing care during COVID-19

With the number of coronavirus cases increasing, the workload for health care workers increases with it.

Dr. Fritz said he is especially grateful for the nurses who are working extra hours and have expanded their responsibilities.

“A lot of times they’re the ones answering the phone calls and doing a lot of the triage and rescheduling,” Dr. Fritz said. “It’s put a lot more burden on them with patient calls, whereas six months ago they could just ask for the symptoms and schedule an appointment. Now they’re doing all the COVID-19 screening questions and putting them at ease.”

The nurses, though, are not the only ones putting patients at ease. Tesch said that she was impressed by Dr. Fritz’s calm in the midst of a pandemic.

“He was reassuring. You could just hear it in his voice; he didn’t sound stressed. I’m sure he is, but he’s calm,” Tesch said.

Calm amidst the storm

Although he doesn’t see himself as calm, Dr. Fritz said that he tries to focus on the bigger picture and what he can do for the good of everybody.

This, Dr. Fritz said, is part of the duty of being a physician that he feels called to. However, this calling has provided some additional worry for his family.

Dr. Fritz’s 11-year old daughter, who is usually quiet and introspective, is nervous about her dad going into work. She asks him, “Are you going to get sick because you’re taking care of patients?”

Dr. Fritz used the calm he uses with patients to reassure his daughter. “I said, ‘if there was a fire next door, we would expect the firefighters to go into the burning building even though it could be dangerous.’ Our service people, we expect them to fight because that’s what their job is. Their families worry about them too, and it’s OK but this is what we do.”

This reassurance about his line of work is obvious to people like Tesch, who get to witness Dr. Fritz’s care from a patient perspective. COVID-19, however, hasn’t changed the way Dr. Fritz cares for his patients. According to Tesch, this is his normal.

“Anytime he walks in a room, he’s always happy and smiling,” Tesch said. “He’s exceptional. I feel really blessed to have found a doctor like him.”

In a time when anxiety is high and uncertainty abounds, Dr. Fritz focuses on his energy on his patients.

“In health care, this is our battle. We have to do this because we have to help people; that’s our duty.”

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Posted In COVID-19, Physicians and APPs, Sanford Stories