The Doctor/Patient Relationship

A lovely and sad essay was published in the New York Times on Monday, and it sparked some thoughts for me about how we interact with our doctors. For someone with Crohn’s or any other medical condition, the doctor is a critical part of the process and can make things easier or harder. So I’ve found myself thinking quite often, “is he thinking about me?” I wonder whether my doctors just dash off a quick diagnosis and prescription when I’m there, and don’t think of it again until my next visit when I’m physically there again. In his face. Needing treatment. I wonder if, like I do with my own job, my doctor’s mind wanders while he’s at home on the weekend, thinking about my case and how to make it better.

Dr. Ofri’s story is of course an extreme situation, but it really helps humanize doctors. It’s bedside manner, I guess, but it’s beyond that – it’s caring. Does this doctor care if I get better or not? Does this doctor remember my name, or does he/she have to read it off my chart each and every time we meet?

I’ve said before how much I like my own doctor, who I call Dr. D here on my blog. When I go to his office he’s always happy to see me, and that’s nice and all, but here’s the big deal: when I ran into him on the street a few months ago, he stopped, asked me how my daughter is, asked me how the Remicade is going, and when I told him about being unsuccessful in getting him on the phone the week before, he gave me his cell phone number for the future. 

Dr. D genuinely cares. And every single person deserves to have that, because I think it’s that caring nature that helps him become a better doctor, which means better results for me. It makes him more attentive, and in turn helps me to open up more about my symptoms or issues. It makes him more open to potential treatments, and it makes me feel more like I’m part of a team working toward a goal, rather than a guinea pig.

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