I’ve had a lot of different types of health insurance. HMO, POS, PPO, EPO, Kaiser. And I’ve had my own fair share of doctor and hospital visits. I’ve had dozens of x-rays (arm, nose, hand, fingers, chest, ankle, lungs), a handful of MRIs and CT scans (head), hundreds of blood draws, more ultrasounds than I can count (breast, uterus), about fifteen ER visits, an extended hospital stay, and a major surgery. Throw in Madeline’s medical history, and you have me – Someone Who Has Dealt With Approximately One Million Different Medical Professionals. So keeping this in mind (along with my degree from Google Medical University), I feel somewhat qualified to give today’s lecture entitled, “It IS Possible To Be A Good Doctor And A Decent Person (subtitle: Don’t Be A Douchebag).”
Stating the obvious: Doctors have a HARD job. We all know this. Life and death. I could never, ever do it, and I’m thankful that they can.
Doctors should never lie. I caught Maddie’s pulmonologist in a lie, and that was it. She lost my trust. Doctors, even when faced with anxious, fed-up, exhausted parents, should always, always be truthful. Even if it will upset the patient or the patient’s parents.
Doctors should conduct themselves with confidence. My former obstetrician acted frightened around me. I’d be sitting in the waiting room in her office, and I would hear her laughing with other patients. She’d walk them out to the waiting room, and when she’d see me she would literally stop mid-laugh, blanch, and back out of the room. She stuttered, hemmed and hawed, and often would answer my questions with, “I don’t know.” Do Doctors know everything? Of course not. But a better response would be, “I’m not sure, let me look it up.” Make the patient feel like you are trying to figure out their case. I know I had an extremely complicated pregnancy, but it would have been nice to think my doctor felt like she could handle it.
Doctors should always treat nurses with respect. When I changed health insurance a few years ago, I needed a new set of doctors. I found an OB/GYN that seemed nice enough. Then, when I was in the exam room with him, he yelled at the nurse that was with us, then called her a “dummy” when she left the room. I’ve also had doctors talk poorly about nurses to me, as if we were old friends gossiping. NOT professional. Nurses run hospitals and doctors offices. Nurses build relationships with the patients and their families. Nurses have to do a lot of dirty work that doctors ought to do. Nurses are AWESOME.
Doctors should be sensitive to the feelings of their patients and their patients’ families. A high-risk obstetrician said to me, “man, you’re having the worst pregnancy ever!” My former OB said, “you might not like what comes out,” when she was referring to then unborn Madeline. A NICU Resident once told me he was sure Maddie had cystic fibrosis even though she’d already had tests come back negative. The attending who was in charge of Maddie the night she passed came over to Mike and me and said, “We’re only going to do this for ten more minutes.” Only do this. THIS. THIS IS OUR BABY! OUR ONLY CHILD! She’s not an OBJECT! She’s a person! And then, for the next ten minutes, he shouted out how much time was left. “Eight more minutes! Four! Two!” When they stopped trying to save her, he walked away. He never told us he was sorry. The other doctors and nurses sobbed and hugged us. He stood off to the side and gestured for the doctors to come stand with him, and then he started talking about Maddie as if we weren’t there mere feet away, sobbing over her cold, lifeless body.
Doctors have a hard job. But I know it’s possible to be a good doctor and a decent person. I’ve had those doctors in the past and I curently have three now. There is more to being a good doctor than knowing medicine. Doctors, I beg of you! You need to use common sense. You need to listen to your patients and their families. And most of all, you have to have compassion. You never know when YOU might be the patient, or you might be the relative watching the love of your life die.