Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Patient/Doctor Relationship

Dr Rob recently posted an interesting Letter to Patients with Chronic Illness.  In it, he talks about how doctors are scared by us because they like to fix people, and we can't be fixed.  They get frustrated by our conditions, and are uncomfortable with how much we know about our illness (often more than they do).  He gives 7 pointers on how we can help our doctor give us the care we need.  I think he is very insightful and honest about a topic not often broached.  His post is well worth reading, as are the comments following it (I read the first few, there are too many to read them all).

The comments I read were angry, an emotion I did not experience when I read his post.  They were angry that, as insightful as his post is, it missed a major aspect.  The doctor is frustrated that he can't fix us?  How do they think we feel?  They are frustrated for the 10-15 minutes they are with us and focusing on our case.  We brought the chronic illness in with us, we have to carry it back out, and are lugging it around 24/7.  I think these readers missed the point of Dr Rob's post.  He is giving a look at what may be going on in a doctor's head, so we can be prepared for working with them.  The fact that we, as the patient, may be more frustrated than they are is irrelevant here.

One of  Dr Rob's pointers is not to put up with jerks.  There are doctors who think of themselves as gods, and when they discover they can't fix us, they assume it is our fault.  If a doctor won't listen to you, or makes you feel belittled, look for another doctor.  Remember that a doctor who comes across as a jerk to one patient may be a perfect fit with someone else.  The opposite is also true.  A doctor who works well with your friend may not impress you at all.  It is important to look for doctors you can work well with over time.  With chronic illness, there are often many issues to balance and juggle, and it takes time to develop a good working relationship.

Your doctor isn't God.  If he thinks he is, run quickly towards the exit (put your clothes back on first).  On  the other hand, your doctor isn't a dog you can train to follow your commands.  I think Dr Rob's main point was that doctors are humans, just like their patients.  We all make mistakes, we all have emotions, we each come to the table (or exam room) with different skills and knowledge.  The key is for both sides to be respectful, to listen to the other side, and work together as a team, using  the skills and knowledge we each bring.

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