I need advice about the possibility living in Northern Alaska, Kotzebue/Nome/north of the 65th parallel. I have about a million logistical questions, a little disorganized, including questions about mental health problems, medications, getting specialist care. If you needed medical care on a regular basis several hundred miles away, how did you arrange that? Lots of other questions about living in the arctic! Help!
posted by circle_b to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I'm looking at a job interview! Hooray! I am so unemployed! Whee! A whole lot of questions follow... obviously these are all contingent on actually getting offered a job.
While I'm from the Pacific Northwest, I've never been up to Alaska. Particularly never Kotzebue/Nome. I hear people describing the arctic circle as "beautiful", but the towns as also "grimly dreary". The job offers great pay (though I know cost of living is very high), great benefits, loan repayment, and a whole lot of vacation time, continuing education benefits, etc.
The job would be in a small tribal health association, doing women's health (obstetrics/gynecology, presumably pretty low volume). If anyone has been a health care provider in northern Alaska, I would absolutely love to hear your experiences.
My main concern; I have bipolar disorder, diagnosed several years ago after a manic/mixed episode. I've been on medication since then, and am currently on a couple of daily meds. I can't miss days; missing one day, I feel funny, missing two days I feel godawful. I need my medication supply to be regular like clockwork, and a lot of things discuss occasional breaks in shipping/flying due to weather.
I can't stop my meds for a month or have a break in-between while figuring things out. Ditto for my birth control (it's for things other than just contraception). Any way to arrange anything in advance? Would I need to get stuff shipped through Medco?
I've been stable for a long time, with some minor depressive episodes; but I stayed in school, did well, got my bachelor's with honors, got my Master's degree in an incredibly stressful field, didn't have to take any breaks.
I talked to my psychiatrist - asked if this position would be a bad idea. he said "not necessarily", presuming I got a therapy light, exercised every day, didn't drink, and monitored any symptoms doggedly. This is all very do-able, and things I work on anyway. And I know and accept that any place I move to would be, frankly, lonely for potentially a long while before making friends, and that adjustment is going to be something to work on actively.
My major concern is, how to get setup with a psychiatrist or other doctor/NP who will prescribe my psych pills? in advance? it seems like the state of Alaska is much more amenable to telemedicine also (given the extremely low population density). How did you get your medications while living up in the far north? How hard/easy is it to have a doctor in, say, Anchorage? I'm concerned that I might be working for the only game in town, if I were to get this job. If you needed to see a doctor that wasn't available in a very small area, and the nearest one was an hour by plane, how did you figure that out/arrange it?
Another set of probably dumb questions; I'd like to get a dog, but - owning a dog while living in the arctic, in an apartment? This is another dumb question, but, am I going to be able to take the dog for a walk, assuming I can suck it up and also take myself for a walk?
Pros: I think I'm up for another adventure in my life here; the position itself offers great pay/benefits as mentioned. Being able to be financially secure and debt-free before age 35 (I currently have 6-figure student loans). Living in a beautiful place. I'm interested in learning to hunt/fish. Have enough disposable income to order books I want to read, or art supplies I want to have? Subsidized housing. They say a lot of people don't own cars, I find that a real bonus.
Cons: Arctic winters. Small, extremely isolated town on the other end of the world. Higher probability of being terminally single for another few years. I'm from a rural area (my first conversation with the HR director somehow wound up on the topic of rifle ranges), but have grown accustomed to my current urban lifestyle - going to a coffeeshop, eating out wherever (there are a few restaurants in this town), going to an art museum now and again, roommates, etc. Unlikely to be able to garden. Living in an apartment.
I know that going anywhere (I'm looking for jobs all over the country), to adjust, I need to really invest and throw myself all-in to the community/area I move to (no half-assing if I'm living somewhere for 3 or 4 years), so I've been reading a lot about all the different places I'm applying to, in order to get psyched about each of the places, but I just want to investigate if the logistics of my own health care would work out.
What other things am I not thinking of here? Help!