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VUMC’s Price thrives on building, nurturing lasting relationships

Jan. 11, 2018, 8:59 AM

Internal medicine specialist Jan Price, MD, enjoys the long-term relationships she’s able to develop with her patients. (photo by Susan Urmy)

One of the greatest gifts of being an internal medicine physician is the long-term relationships developed with patients, and for Jan Price, MD, those relationships span generations of families.

Price, assistant professor of Clinical Medicine, practices with Hillsboro Medical Group at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC). Her patients, who range in age from 18 to 98, include a family of four generations — elderly grandparents down to their great granddaughters.

She first became acquainted with some of her patients as an internal medicine resident at Vanderbilt in 1997. Many of her patients have been in her practice for 17 years.

“I grew up as a physician with many of my patients. When you have a relationship with your patients for years and something happens to them, it affects you,” she said. “You wonder, ‘how could I have been better, should I have seen that coming?’ But sometimes you can’t. You just have to know that you did your best for your patients every day. That’s what matters. Patients see that effort — my best effort is what I come to work and strive to achieve every day.”

Taking time to know her patients is important in caring for them, she believes. She’s friendly and talkative and asks her patients about their personal stories during office visits. “Everyone has a story that helps you better understand them,” she said. She’s known for her thorough physical exams and patient histories. “If you know your patients, you know what’s normal and not normal for them. They feel comfortable sharing things with you.”

She also enjoys the variety of challenges afforded an internal medicine physician. “It’s like a Cracker Jack box. You never know what you’re going to get when you open the door. You may open it and find someone with depression; another patient might be having an allergic reaction or an asthma attack, and then someone’s blood sugar may be 500. I enjoy the challenge of managing different things.”

Jan Price, MD, right, relishes the relationships she has with her Vanderbilt colleagues such as Rachel Menke, RN. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Price said that being a good and productive internist means being able to multitask, and being willing to grow as a physician. She attends on the internal medicine inpatient teaching service that trains internal medicine residents and precepts medical students and nurse practitioners in the clinic. Last year, for the first time, she was on Vanderbilt University Adult Hospital’s Geriatric Service, the Acute Care of the Elderly (ACE) floor located in Medical Center North.

“I learned so much from the nurses and nurse practitioners on that floor. I learned about geriatric (medicine) dosing from the pharmacy. I learned about fall risk assessments and dementia/del-irium management. I think I’m a better internist for my older patients now because of the experience.” She enjoys doing both inpatient and outpatient medicine.

Price also relishes the relationships she has with the nurses in her practice. “I call my nurses my work spouses,” she said, laughing.

“I appreciate my nurses. I have a very good working relationship with them because I have a lot of respect for nurses and for what they add to a practice. Nurses can be empowered and supported by doctors to make a huge difference in patients’ lives. We have a lot to learn from nurses. They talk to patients better than we do. They touch patients better than we do.”

Price, a native of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, came from a family of nurses. Her grandmother, who immigrated from Scotland, and many of her aunts and cousins are nurses. When she was a teenager, to earn money for college, she worked in the nursing home where her aunt served as nurse administrator. “She made me do everything from housekeeping to serving as a model patient for nursing clinical exams,” she said.

Price graduated from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 1993 and from Johns Hopkins Medical School in 1997. After she served her residency at Vanderbilt, she was a Chief Resident in Medicine and joined the faculty in 2001.

She is married to John Bernatavitz, who teaches history and Latin at Montgomery Bell Academy (MBA), and they have two sons, Luke, 17, and Ian, 15, who also attend MBA.

Away from work, she has been a class mom, co-manager of the MBA Varsity Soccer team, taught religious education, and enjoys watching her sons play soccer.

She loves to cook, read and exercise. Her family enjoys traveling together. Favorite trips have included a recent trip to Iceland and Normandy for D-Day.

Price has been involved in some recent administrative endeavors at VUMC including several committees for the implementation of EpicLeap, the sweeping technology initiative that recently implemented VUMC’s new clinical, administrative and billing software. She has participated in Physician Council for Clinical Service Excellence, worked with the P4P Internal Medicine Quality data project, and sits on the Patient and Family Engagement Steering Committee.

But her patients are always her priority. She admits it’s challenging to spend the time she’d like to with each one in today’s current healthcare environment. What’s important is striving to meet the needs of each patient at each visit no matter what that might be, she said.

“My patients know me and I know them. That’s where I get my real satisfaction in being an internist. At the end of this, I’m going to look back and say ‘look at all of the fabulous relationships I had with all of those wonderful people while being challenged professionally every day.’”

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