Sunday, December 16, 2018

A Patient’s Perspective: What Makes a Good Doctor?




I’m sure if you asked a handful of people what makes a good doctor, everyone would have a different answer for you. Over the last 5 years, I’ve happened to see more doctors than most see in a lifetime. And let me tell you... there are some really special doctors out there who truly found their calling in life. And then there are some who seem like they may have chosen the wrong profession.


My simple answer to the question, “What makes a good doctor?”, is collaboration.


Some of us have pretty confusing medical issues and it becomes frustrating for both us, and the doctor, when no one is quite sure what to do. When I’m confronted with a doctor who isn’t willing to listen to my thoughts, my opinions, and my complaints, I feel completely shut out. All of the sudden they’ve become the dictator of MY body. And that’s not a good feeling. There’s a quote that goes around that says something like, “Yes, you had a two hour lecture on my condition. But I’ve spent 10 years living with it.”


And this is where the collaboration comes in. The doctors I’ve met that I honestly admire truly want to understand you as a person, and understand what is important to you in your care so that they can help you. I’ve found very few doctors like this, but when I have, I’ve breathed the biggest sigh of relief. They see you as a whole person, a whole entity, and not just another chart.


So I know I’m just a measly patient, but if any open minded doctors out there happen to read this and want to know how to possibly better help some of their patients, here is my advice.


1. Keep an open mind. We are very aware that we are not doctors or medical professionals, but we spend more time on our case than any medical professional has time for. Maybe we have ideas that could genuinely work for us, ideas of tests that could be run, ideas of treatment strategies, ideas of aids that could potentially improve our quality of life. Don’t be closed off to our input just because we’re not the doctor. We know we’re not the doctor. But you are, and you have our life, and our comfort in your hands. COLLABORATE. 


2. Don’t tell us “never to Google”. As a patient, again, we have a lot more time to spend on our own cases than you do. And we understand that. Doctors are overloaded and busy as can be! But demeaning a patient for using Google to do their own research is not okay. No patient should be made to feel embarrassed for researching their illness or researching treatment options. And if we bring a paper to you and you say it’s not from a reputable website, okay, we understand. But if it is from a true, primed and published study, please have a look. We aren’t trying to complicate things. We are only trying to better our quality of life. If we come in asking if it’s possible that we have “so and so disease”, and that that’s what could be causing our misery, don’t laugh at us or brush us off. Listen to our reasoning and consider it. Once in a while we may just be right. COLLABORATE. 


3. DO expect us to do our part. If you recommend something and we agree to it, such as physical therapy, taking a certain medication prescribed, trying to cut out a certain food group, etc, then we absolutely should try what we agreed to. If you are genuinely trying to help us and have ideas, we need to do the same thing with you; COLLABORATE. 


4. When we tell you about issues we are having, please don’t brush them off. It may seem like a minor issue to you, but it’s something that we have to deal with everyday. Maybe if you dig deep you can think of an explanation for this symptom, or something that can bring us some relief. We know you have a lot on your mind, but we’re relying on you. COLLABORATE. 


 5. Realize how much power you have. We tell ourselves that you’re “just a person”, but in reality, you’re more than just a person. You’re someone who holds our comfort, our quality of life, and our future in your hands. And again, we realize you hold many of these lives in your hands, and that it can all get a bit much. Individuals can start seeming like less of a big deal in the big mix of things. But to us, you’re the ONE person who can help us. You have the power to better our lives. COLLABORATE.


 6. Know that although you went through intensive years of medical school, we are the ones living in our bodies. We can do our best to describe what we feel, but only we can really feel it. So BELIEVE us when we tell you something is happening in our body. Know that we have lived in our bodies our whole lives, and when something doesn’t feel right, we know. Don’t let patients slip through the cracks because they might “seem” healthy to you based on initial tests. See them for their suffering. See them for the things they dream of doing if you can help them. COLLABORATE. 


When we work together and really listen to each other, that’s where the magic happens.



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