Saturday, June 10, 2006

What makes a good patient

There's a sidebar with the title of this post in the May 1 issue of Time. The doctor writing it has some pretty keen insights:

"Few patients realize how deeply they can affect their doctors. That is a big secret in medicine - one doctors hate to admit. We think about, talk about, dream about our patients. We went into clinical medcine because we like dealing on a personal, even intimate level with people who have chosen to put their bodies in our hands. Our patients make or break our days.

Take the compliment. Our career choice means we really do think that you - with your aches and pains - are more interesting than trading hot securities, more fun than a courtroom full of lawyers. Massaging the ego is the key to manipulating responsible types like doctors. When we feel your trust, you have us.

The most compelling reasons to be a good patient are selfish ones...You'll get more of the mind that you came for, a mind working better because it's relaxed - recalling and associating freely, more receptive to small, even subliminal clues...But you should try to be a good patient for unselfish reasons too. We worry about you 60 hours a week. We gave up our 20s for you. Why not show us some love?

Good patients answer questions completely, and accurately. They ask questions too...

Any good doctor knows when you're too sick to be polite and will let it roll off his sleeve. The squeaky wheel we don't like is the one playing a dominance game. That big wheel is likely to get a shorter, less sensitive examination and more tests, and then still more tests to follow up on the abnormalities in the first tests, followed by extra consultations with specialists - anything to relieve the doctor's responsibility for a bad patient..."
Scott Haig, MD


Thainamu said...

We are fortunate in that our family doctor has been that for about 20 years. Our kids played with his kids--one of our kids went to the prom with one of his kids. I was so moved when I saw tears in his eyes when he saw our daughter on stage performing in a high school musical--he remembered how she couldn't walk until she was three, and here she was, dancing on stage.

But I'm reminiscing, and the real point of my comment is that in my old age I've come to realize that doctors are no different than any of the rest of us, and they certainly aren't gods like some people think. The best way to get good care from a doctor is do your own homework before you ever go to the doctor (that is, pay close attention and carefully record your symptoms), then write your questions down and make sure you get them all answered.

gloria jean said...

Oh, that is so on target. I have a similar feeling about patients being a nurse.

Nathan said...

Gloria - That's an interesting unity of feeling between docs and nurses. This article also said later that nurses tend to be better patients than doctors, becuase they are used to following doctor's orders. What do you think?