11.11.2007

Note To Doctors

If you are going to hate your patients, don't expect them to trust you.

If you think this:

"I marveled, sitting there silenced by her diatribe. Hers was such a fully orbed and vigorous self-concern that it possessed virtue in its own right. Her complete and utter selfishness was nearly a thing of beauty."

expect a lot more of this:

"At the other end of our spectrum are patients like Susan: They're often suspicious and distrustful"

Gee, I wonder if their suspicion and/or distrust has to do with your:
A. snap, and expert judgment of how she raises her kid just by the behavioral pinhole you glimpsed in the waiting room,
B. distaste of her knowing where you got your credentialing,
C. quick and assuming dismissal of any and all research done on her very real and felt condition,
D. wistful and fond recollection of being taught when to "punt" a patient away, like a football?

As one of those "other" doctors, let me just share some insight. The world is changing. People have more access to bad information, and indeed we ARE responsible for knowing what to ignore. That makes it that much MORE important that we share what we know, what we don't know, and what to ignore in a way that communicates this information convincingly to people who are usually desperate and unwilling to trust the trappings of expertise that used to carry the day. Our professional identity will likely be determined by what the religious fundamentalists call "our witness." If we can only help the easily cowed, we should probably take a secondary role to those who can advocate and profess their calling more eloquently.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, and people wonder why I don't trust MDs. Many of them, even the young, trained-to-listen-to-patients ones, really hate it when you know anything about their field or god forbid refuse to automaticallly follow their treatment.

Heh,watch their heads pop off when you refuse to give your social.

DC said...

Sadly, I've been trained to react a certain way by university medical center doctors that typically know less about what should be done to heal me than I do.

But the truth is that these reactions are there for any person-to-person job. Math tutors have the same bad reactions to the people they tutor as these doctors have to their patients.

Doc Mara said...

I have to agree there. I *hope* that the tenor of my post indicates that I'm in the group of "experts" that has to adjust to flattened hierarchies. Our job isn't as much to know the answer as it is to convince people to let go of the wrong ones. It is especially important for health practitioners, though, to help people not do the wrong thing. After all, the body does the healing. The role of patient and doctor is to try to remove that which is preventing the natural healing mechanism from occurring. Without communication and empathy, this can't happen. Unfortunately, I see the "orb of selfishness" emanating from the doctor rather than the patient.

I WANT to identify with this guy, because I'm a designated "expert," but he just comes across as rigid, smug, and unhelpful. I hope/pray/want that not to be me.

DC said...

Ok, I actually read the article now (yes, sadly, I commented first and read the article second). One additional comment I'll make is that it's hard to remember that a doctor (or whatever) is also a person. It's hard to keep in mind that the person you're talking to is more than just the profession involved. Even though this article talks about how the woman investigated his personal details, I doubt that she regarded him as a "real" person - or that she treated him as such.

It's a hard skill to learn to communicate and empathize - and both the "doctor" and the "patient" have that difficulty.

Doc Mara said...

DC, it's hard to tell how the woman treated the doctor. Time magazine obviously thought that the side of the story worth telling was the professional's. Even if we take this guy at face value, he's making some MAJORLY problematic judgments. He's flinging implications on her child-rearing skills based on the behavior of a two-year-old (and implying that being articulate is a bad thing). He's also judging a background typing and preposition pausing breath AS a search (surely, she might be calling from work--people often deal with things during the hours that doctors take calls). I'm curious as to why he took the appointment, considering even my friends who are doctors make me go through an army of receptionists, etc. to make an apppointment. Finally, he's assuming that her questions are mumbo jumbo ignorance. He throws up the Latin term and pretends this gives him the right to "punt" someone who likely is in a lot of pain. He's certainly human, but I get the feeling that he is forgetting that important detail. I'm absolutely sure he's forgotten that about this poor woman.

And this all applies to my professional behavior too. Too bad Time doesn't give us all a chance to vent about the ignoramuses that traipse through our offices, eh?