After working in the health care business for several years and being a patient for my entire life, I’ve learned a little bit about “both sides of the fence”. As a patient I tend to be anxious, impatient and timid. To be honest, going to the doctor scares me. The idea that my body and my health requires someone else’s help makes me feel out of control and then the rest of the emotions ensue. But as an employee in a health care organization that strives to extend compassion, integrity and excellent patient care, I can see why things are the way they are and this gives me a little relief when going to the doctor myself.
If you struggle with doctor’s visits like I do, and you want to be part of the solution, here are a few things that Dr. Herdley Paolini, author of Inside the Mind of a Physician and director of Physician Support Services at Florida Hospital, recommends:
Refuse to Accept the Stereotypes Commonly Ascribed to Physicians
Imagine, think about, and treat physicians as human beings. This seems like a given and the most basic recommendation that applies to everyone. Unfortunately, that is not how we have viewed or approached physicians. Physicians are human beings before they are MDs; they have physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. We forget this rather easily. We would greatly benefit from seeing them as we are: fallible, vulnerable, and deeply human. They experience the full gamut of feelings, get tired, hungry, and hurt in the same way any other human being does.
Physicians wake up every day to face unknowns for which they will be ultimately held accountable and responsible. They deal with life and death on a daily basis and are often bearers of bad news. They see humans at their worst and feel the weight of responsibility for changing that. In a combination of self-imposition and imposition from others, they carry the burden of curing everyone. They frequently blame themselves and internally feel like failures when this ultimate goal is not achieved. In addition, they have to be constantly on guard and have had to develop a type of paranoia about covering all bases as they are forced to practice defensive medicine.
Practice Giving Feedback
In our dealings with physicians, we often assume they are aware of the same things we are. We are uncomfortable telling physicians how we are experiencing things, how we feel, and what we need. Because we do not engage our physicians like this very often, we are intimidated to give them feedback. Perhaps most importantly, we do not show appreciation for the things they do and the countless times outcomes are positive. If things go right in a particular procedure, we proceed in a dismissive way; after all, we expect things to go well. Physicians rarely hear, “That was superb,” “Well done,” “What a great job/outcome,” or, “Thank you for what you did.”
Given the enormity and sheer volume of the tasks involved with each patient encounter and in day-to-day schedules, physicians greatly appreciate those who are mindful to be prepared.
Here are some additional ways you, as the patient, can maximize efficiency:
o Be on time
o Have a current list of your medications ready
o Prepare a list of things that you would like to discuss before hand
o Be open and honest with your current medical conditions. Keeping information from your physician can put you in harms way