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Merry, Volunteer Mentor (@merpreb)

Doctor patient relationships

Lung Health | Last Active: May 18, 2019 | Replies (5)

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@merpreb This is an interesting question. At the time I was seeking help and needed spine surgery, I read a book called, "Back in Control" by David Handsom, MD who is an orthopedic spine surgeon, and who also became a spine surgery patient. His book pointed out the stress of being a spine surgeon and that he had personally known spine surgeons who chose to end their lives during the time that they had been treating patients. It hadn't occurred to me that treating me as a patient could be very stressful, and it wasn't just because of me, but also because of everything else that might be happening in their professional and personal life. A mistake during spine surgery could have serious consequences. I wanted to know that any surgeon I chose would not be distracted and would be able to fully focus on the procedure that I needed. I also knew that I as a patient could make a difference and that if I let my physician know that I was grateful and valued their advice, that I could assure a good relationship which could help me get better care. At least I would find out if a doctor was receptive to my positive energy, and if not, maybe someone else would be better. I found a variety of personalities in the specialists I consulted, and different degrees of their willingness to listen to me, answer my questions, and to try to make me comfortable as a patient. One wouldn't answer questions at all, yet was pushy about wanting to do surgery and he started some extreme anxiety that took a long time for me to overcome. I kept looking. My symptoms were different than what was expected for my condition, and 5 surgeons missed that completely. The one who didn't miss the diagnosis and who answered my questions, and fully explained the procedure got the job, and he was by far the most compassionate of all of them, and intuition told me I could trust him. I knew a lot about spine surgery already because I had been watching neurosurgery conference presentations online and I had a background in biology, so I knew what all the others had missed. I also asked questions to try to figure out if he was happy in his life and had a good work/life balance, and I would ask others that question who worked with him. I paid attention to body language and interactions with the doctor and his staff.

I made sure my surgeon knew how much I appreciated his help. When I got the hospital survey that came in the mail, I answered it, but felt that the multiple choice answers didn't fully represent my gratitude, so I wrote a personal letter about my experience to the CEO from the cover letter, and I was pretty excited when I got a personal letter back from Dr. Noseworthy, the CEO at Mayo at the time. I gave my surgeon a copy of my letter and the response which made him very happy. Everyone likes to be appreciated for a job well done, and my surgery changed my life. As a patient, I want a doctor who is kind, but I need to return kindness to him in return. It helps both of us, and having a great relationship with a doctor will help me a lot on the future if I am in need of further treatment. I can focus on good things instead of worrying about the procedure. It builds trust and that is so important to me.

I don't want to be treated like a condition or a disease, but a person. I see my doctor as a person and expect the same in return and I expect that my doctors will engage in two way conversation about my medical issues with advice, and anything fun that isn't about medicine is a bonus. I always want to know why they chose their career, and I want doctors who love their jobs. If they talk about that with excitement and passion, you know you found a good one. When I was little, I didn't have a choice if I felt intimidated by a doctor, but I have that choice now. If I feel like I'm being dismissed, I won't go back as long as I can get help elsewhere. I have to be able to trust them as a person first in order to be able to trust their medical advice. There are some top notch surgeons who are arrogant, and I had enough to worry about as a nervous patient while making choices and that kind of personality interfered with good communication and affected my ability to make an informed decision about my treatment. I like a doctor who appreciates having an informed patient who might arrive with a lot of understanding about their own issues. A doctor should also be able to trust you as a patient. You are a team making a decision together, and the doctor should be able to trust the patient to follow the advice that was mutually discussed. A patient should raise questions during that discussion if they are not comfortable with a decision or need more information about it.

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Replies to "@merpreb This is an interesting question. At the time I was seeking help and needed spine..."

@jenniferhunter How interesting your post is! It makes sense. I know that recently all of my team of physicians have been good listeners and I felt like they understood my perspective and answered questions. That was a relief prior to, during, and after surgery. I think most surgeons an other doctors have it trained heavily into them to blot out during treatment, personal problems they carry. However, the worry of something going wrong with surgery is an interesting thing to ponder. Thank you for addressing a truly eye-opening concept.