I’ve visited with many doctors in the past – primary care docs and specialists, both as a patient and years ago as a professional. I’ve come to really appreciate the importance of bedside manners and compassion in medicine.
Because of some of the behaviors I have seen from doctors when I worked in the pharmaceutical industry, it’s made me highly distrustful of physicians. So in writing this, I already have had bad experiences that had made me biased against how some doctors “practice medicine.”
As a patient, I’ve met doctors who have been dismissive or judgmental, and who came across as barely caring about my wellbeing as a patient because I was just another body shuffling through the office in a highly managed care environment.
For example, a primary care doctor my husband and I went to had given us both annual physical exams and never bothered to call us about the blood test results. His office staff said that we would only get a call if something was “wrong.” I found this ridiculous especially when the doctor had made my husband take a 2 hour glucose tolerance test for his blood sugar levels. The doctor also made recommendations that ran counter to a world-class endocrinologist even when we told the doctor about family risk factors, etc.
This was a young doctor, and maybe that’s where his arrogance came from.
An OTO (otolaryngologist) I visited didn’t respect my hesitation to take medication for a condition that was not definitively diagnosed. When I expressed surprise and a little doubt at what he told me I had, he said that the test (sticking a thin scope down my throat) was “scientific” and “objective.” I don’t disagree with the test being scientific or objective, but I didn’t appreciate the lack of concern for my treatment preference as a patient.
When doctors behave this way, it really tempts to me snap back at them and say, “Please don’t preach to me about scientific and objective; I’ve got a science PhD for Godssakes!” But I say nothing and vow not to return to that office again. And I wonder if I as an educated and assertive patient could be made to feel so small, how would someone who was vulnerable and scared and not as informed feel with doctors like these.
Another primary care doctor I went to asked me if I went to church. I said no (because I’m not Christian). While he was performing the examination (I went there for GI problems), he said that I should be going to church and implied that I was probably sick because I wasn’t going to church.
The positive outcome of that visit was that he referred me to Dr. Kim.
I really like my gastrointestinal specialist, Dr. Kim. His office staff is courteous. The office itself has a calm and quiet atmosphere. Dr. Kim has a calm and relaxed demeanor.
Dr. Kim simply comes across as completely non-judgmental. Dr. Kim doesn’t necessarily spend more time with me than the other doctors did, but when he is speaking with me, his voice is soft and low. He doesn’t make me feel rushed or that he’s got more (important) patients to see in the other rooms. He doesn’t talk down to me or make me feel stupid or ignorant. He’s even told me that he has personal experiences with a similar condition, so I feel like he understands what I’m going through and how frustrated I feel.
My dentist, Dr. Baker, is another doctor with outstanding patient care demeanor. He’s the only dentist I’ve been to who would stop whatever he was doing and answer my questions. I would be reclined with a bib around me, and if I asked a question, Dr. Baker would put down his instrument and look at me and answer my question. He would also explain to me what he had read to back up what he said. That’s after he had asked me if I would be interested to hear the scientific details because he wouldn’t bore me if I didn’t care about it.
This was a young doctor, and maybe that’s where his respect for his patient came from.
You probably noticed I had made a contradictory statement about young doctors earlier in this writing.
My point is that it doesn’t matter if you’re a young doctor or an experienced specialist. You can be compassionate or condescending toward your patients. You can take the same amount of time you have with a patient and either make it high quality or hurried and disrespectful.
I was so impressed with Dr. Baker that I wrote him a thank you note. I took pains to describe why I liked him and what he did that made me feel good as a patient. I want him to never lose the wonderful way he behaves toward his patients. And if/when I have kids, I’d take them to Dr. Baker.
Come to think of it, I’m going to write a thank you note to Dr. Kim, too.
2006-6-20 @ 11:06:47 am by Michael Barath
Excellent point. I’ve been taking the time lately to write and thank people who have given me exceptional service. I wrote a thank you to my veterinarian after he unsuccessfully treated my beloved Golden Retriever, Halle. Last August when my father died I wrote and thanked the many nurses in the CICU who gave him excellent care. I doubt if caring professionals get the honor they deserve.
Overall, the service sector as a whole is poor. I have to be careful not to thank people who give me mediocre service because compard to so many, it seems good.
2006-6-21 @ 12:06:32 pm by Jane Chin, Ph.D.
Ooh, you’re right. We’ve become so used to bad service that mediocre service seems like good service now. That’s a scary prospect.
2006-6-21 @ 5:06:35 pm by Joan Knibbe
Just found this website today. I have a problem with my own MD, the primary provider, who will not, will not refer me to the OHSU in Portland, Or. After 2 years of not walking, the Fibromyalgia is the balme, but I have never found anyone to show me that this condition makes anyone totally stop walking. I have many herniated disc and one is tearing, but I am not a canidate for any surgery, to hear him tell it to me. How would he know this? He sent me to Rehab, but it got to be so very painful after being seen 4-6 times. I never saw the pain specialists there. I had more pain that prevents me from even walking, getting to the store, shopping, visits appointments, you name it, I am here at home mainly. Just one month ago, after I found my way around him and saw 2 specialists who rulled out any tumor, MS, or any blood disease and he flipped out on that, but he told me that enough is enough and that he would refer me to the OHSU and he has not done this todate. So I made a complaint to the West Salem Clinic who hires him to be there treating or non-treating paitients. No biggy to them!!!!!! Now what do I do with this? I am trapped.
# 2006-6-21 @ 5:06:30 pm by Jane Chin, Ph.D.
Joan, have you tried speaking with your healthcare provider’s ombudsman or someone in a similar capacity who could advise you on this, based on your insurance coverage?
First, I don’t have experience with fibromyalgia, but know that some doctors still don’t believe it is a real condition. I’ve seen someone with fibro and it looked like a very painful condition when it hurts to get up from a chair to take a step forward.
Your MD may have his own reasons (biases or his perceived ‘best’ clinical judgement), but you may want to contact your insurer to explore options for a doctor with whom you have more trust and rapport.
# 2006-8-21 @ 6:08:40 am by liana
I can understand how doctors can be uncompassionate and rushed because of their workload but i don’t consider them god like as many consider themselves.
There are many people in healthcare and science who worked and sacrificed as much and as hard as them, doing research and work, just so they can practice.