When I am at my best, it’s a win-win. I am present, attentive, and actively listening. I am patient, cheerful, relaxed. I am less judgmental, and more likely to acknowledge the things you already do to help yourself. Not only do I hear what you say; I see and hear how you feel, and you know it.
When I am at my best, we feel connected. You feel safe to reveal things to me that you might not if I were less than my best. Then I get to know you—what you value, what you fear, and what you need from me. I know better what questions to ask, and you can answer honestly. My diagnosis is more accurate, my treatment plan more relevant. You feel more comfortable asking questions. We both leave the visit satisfied and fulfilled.
So what do I need to be at my best? I need to take care of myself first: eat healthy, exercise, get enough sleep, manage my stress, and nurture my relationships. If we consider each of these a bucket, then the ideal is to keep each bucket mostly full all the time. How is that possible? That is up to me. I need to practice what I preach—a tall order! It can lead to perfectionism, self-judgment, disappointment, and burnout. It’s my responsibility to manage myself.
How could you help me be my best? After all, you have a stake (and a hand) in how I show up. Have you thought about this already?
What assumptions do you make about me?
How do those assumptions affect your body language, what information you give me, and how you perceive my words and recommendations?
What assumptions can you make about me that would maximize your chances of getting what you need?
I respectfully request that you consider the following about me, your physician:
- I try my best to walk the talk. I know how hard it is.
- Every day I bring all that I have to work, to do my best for you.
- Some days (weeks, months, years) I have more than others, depending on what else is going on in my life.
- I will make mistakes, and it’s not because I don’t care.
- I know it’s my job to help you.
- I need your help to do it.
When you feel that disconnect, like I have left Best Me somewhere else and you’re not getting what you need, what will you do? Will you yell and storm away? Smile to my face and then write a scathing, anonymous Yelp review? What would you do if I were your spouse, colleague, friend, or child? You and I are in a relationship, not unlike these. Could you patiently, lovingly, ask me to slow down, take a deep breath, and be with you now? I think I would respond very well to that.
So very true and a lesson not taught in medical school, nor to the public at large. It would be a great thing to post in exam rooms or leave with the magazines in the waiting room. Thanks so much for your words of wisdom.
Thank you, Kathy!
So many encounters are merely transactional these days, I hear all the time from patients that doctors visits feel this way, and they hate it. My guess is docs hate it, too. It seems to me that each party blames the other, in general–feels ironic and sad.
There’s another problem that’s only going to get worse: the insertion of the government into the doctor-patient relationship. I have friends who already talk abou their physicians as though they’re government agents. Any questions the doctors ask are interpreted as governmental snooping.The cookie-cutterish feel doesn’t help.
Particularly when it comes to end of life decisions, the level of suspicion is high. It’s a terrible situation, and it’s going to be up to both patient and doctor to do something about it. My only significant contact with physicians has been because of my eye problems, but one thing I’ve done is make sure, on every visit, to ask a question or make a comment that’s related to the physician’s life. For example, my regular eye doc is a hunter and fisherman, a native Texan, and so on. The first time I asked him if he was heading to South Texas for quail season, you could see the response. It would interpret, roughly, as ‘a patient sees me as a person, too?”
I figure if it helps with check-out clerks at the grocery store, it ought to help with doctors!
Thanks, Linda… So many players in medicine these days, we have come a long way (for better or worse) since the days of Doc Baker and Little House On the Prairie… And, I agree with you, both physicians and patients will have to participate to reclaim our relationships. Thank you for actively connecting with your doctors. Maybe you encourage your friends and family to do the same? 😊
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