August 21, 2010
By Silvia Uribe
Doctors exist to make people’s bodies heal, and work well. That’s a pretty general expectation of doctors everywhere. How are doctors supposed to accomplish this? It varies from culture to culture. Some may heal with “magic”, while others, like in some Latino cultures, with rubbing and massaging with ointments, combined with some sort of witchcraft also known as “limpias” (to clean the body and the soul). Other cultures fight illnesses with thin needles, or with herbs that bring relief to those who suffer from ailments.
Regardless, there are some steps that body healers have to follow. 1) They need to take the time to listen to their patient, ask the necessary questions, and assess what the problem may be. 2) They need to determine a treatment path – ranging from an aspirin to a surgery, and everything in between – and to evaluate the results of such treatment, and 3) If the treatment is not working, doctors are supposed to re-evaluate the situation and make adjustments to the treatment.
Logically, the common thread that runs through all these steps should be a constant flow in the communication doctor-patient-doctor.
However, some doctors don’t even deserve the title. They’ve seem to have forgotten one or more of these logical steps, starting with taking the time to listen. They seem to think that communication with the patient is not important, thus cutting it to a bare minimum, and relying on what the nurse refers to them, and what the records in front of him read. You may know the kind. These doctors I’m talking about whoosh in the room, ask you how you feel, start writing by hand or in the computer, and whoosh out before you know it, just to go onto the next patient whooshing again. Sometimes they barely look at you. Sounds familiar?
My elderly friend Graciela went through a terrible experience after a knee surgery followed by an infection, her doctor left her bed-bound for months on end. It was as if he had forgotten about her. All that time, he just let her suffer from great pain and desperation. The infection prevented her wound from healing, and he wouldn’t do anything about it. She became so frail, that we feared for her life.
Finally, after almost a year, and pushed to see her by her frequent calls, he decided to take the infected prosthesis out, place an anti-biotic pack in its place, and get rid of the infection that way. What he never told my friend was that, after the infection was gone, he wasn’t planning to replace the prosthesis, and that his “treatment plan” was to leave her without the use of her leg for the rest of her life. No options or intelligent reasons were given to her for this decision. Obviously bothered by her inquiries, he only told her that by doing what he said the risk for another infection would be reduced.
As you can imagine, she emphatically insisted on the fact that she wanted to be mobile again, but his position was firm. She finally had it, and told him that she wanted a second opinion. At first, he look surprised, and maybe a little scared, then he became defensive, and seemed mad at her for “changing plans at the last minute.” My friend asked “what plans?” He told her that he had scheduled another surgery to take the anti-biotic pack out of her leg the following week, which, of course, he had not previously discussed with her.
Now, with a new doctor, and a surgery coming up, she is expected to walk again, and have a normal life.
It seems that some in the health field get too comfortable (particularly in towns where they don’t have a lot of competition) and become insensitive to their patients’ needs. They may be bored or tired with what they do, and they start doing their job just for the money, and not because they have the passion to do it anymore. They don’t want to answer questions, or to explain themselves in a way that their patients can understand. They neglect their patients and put them at great risk.
As patients, we should not put up with their attitude.
Fortunately, there are others whom deserve to be called doctors. They practice medicine for the right reasons, and devote the necessary time to understand what’s going on with their patients. They confer with them and help them understand the benefits of their recommendations, and address their concerns. They are not lazy. They keep themselves up-to-date with new treatments and preventative measures. They’re good not only with the “easy cases”, where everything goes as planned. They’re also good when things get tough, and the results are unexpected and difficult to deal with.
That’s the kind of doctor patients respect, admire and trust. Not the health “line workers” that do their job with the automatic pilot on, but the ones that are knowledgeable, dedicated, and ethical health professionals.
My virtual hat is off to the latter ones.
Cross-Published on http://www.edhat.com