“No McDreamy. No McSteamy. And there are not that many people that die every day in the hospital, or else our hospital would probably be closed down.”
Vande Zande has worked as a general practitioner in Eau Claire since 2006 and is currently employed at Sacred Heart Hospital and the Marshfield Clinic. Although she said being a doctor is not quite as crazy as it is depicted on television, the job still has moments that make it hectic, a little scary, but ultimately worthwhile.
A typical day for Vande Zande involves waking up with the sun and heading to the hospital around 7 a.m., where she visits her patients who have been admitted to the hospital. She then heads over to the clinic, where she sees other patients and works hard to keep up with her least favorite part of the job – all of the paperwork. More patients, more paperwork, and Vande Zande can usually head out by 5 p.m.
But between paperwork and paperwork – and more paperwork – is the best part of her job: her patients.
“My favorite thing about my job is the patient contact and really feeling like I am helping them,” Vande Zande said. “I am always amazed at people’s resilience to the things that they have gone through and that they still have a good attitude – those are the people that keep me going.”
Vande Zande said she finds it rewarding that her patients look to her for help because she has been a patient before – and so have members of her family, which is part of the reason she became a doctor. When she was 16, Vande Zande lost her grandmother to colon cancer. Two years later, her uncle died as well.
“I watched a lot of people be sick,” Vande Zande said. “So I knew I wanted to do something in the medical profession.”
Vande Zande’s niece, Krista Reinart, admires her aunt and looks up to her as a role model.
“Vicki has always been my hero,” Reinart said. “She’s loving, caring, kind, helpful, considerate, truthful, and real. Some of her family died when she was younger, and yet she was able to become a doctor.”
But before Vande Zande could practice in the medical field, she earned her undergraduate degree in bacteriology – a branch of microbiology that studies bacteria and their applications to medicine, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. She then graduated from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee in 2000 and completed her residency at the Marshfield Clinic in Marshfield, Wis., in 2003.
Those years as a medical student could get long and stressful, she said.
“When you’re a med student, you go to work one day at 4 in the morning, and you get home the next day at 6 or 7 p.m.,” Vande Zande said. “It’s mentally difficult just because of the stress of trying to make the right decisions and take as good of care of your patients as you can.”
Vande Zande described one particularly unusual chapter of her job history, which occurred when she was working trauma in Milwaukee.
“We had patients – you know, the gangbangers – that we would have to put in one room, and then every day we’d have to change their room so that the other gangs wouldn’t come and get them,” she said. “And half the time people were going to jail after they left the hospital. Grandmothers would be telling their grandchildren, ‘You know you’re going to jail after,’ so they’d escape from the hospital and take their IVs.”
“That’s why we don’t live in Milwaukee anymore,” she said.
Now that she’s settled in Eau Claire – where the gangbangers are not as numerous – with her husband, two sons, and golden retriever, Vande Zande can say it was worth it, though when she was a medical student she wasn’t so sure it would be.
“If you’re already started, keep going!” Vande Zande advised current medical students. “It will get better. It’s completely worth it now.”