Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always – Hippocrates
We patients come to you looking for answers as to why we feel sick. Waiting to see you in a small exam room, wearing only a paper gown, with our legs dangling off the exam table is intimidating in itself. Most of us see you as an authority figure; you are the one wearing a lab coat with several medical degrees hanging on the wall in your office. You must know what’s best for us. Be aware that your attitude, sets the tone of how well your patient will respond to treatment or even recover. Your words are powerful, so be careful what you say.
Telling a patient “they are a complicated case” doesn’t help him or her. The patient is already “freaked out” knowing they have a disease (like cancer) that could kill them. The last thing your patient wants to hear is that their disease is complicated. It gives them the idea, you have no idea what you are doing and maybe you don’t. If their disease is too much for you to treat, how about referring them to someone else; telling your patient you want a second opinion, so you can come up with a plan. I have met a few of you over the course of my adult life, who bristled when I questioned your diagnosis or asked for a less toxic way to treat me. I left feeling as though my thoughts didn’t count so I never went back.
Patients have told me too many times that their doctor or nurse practitioner gave them “bad news” with a cold indifferent attitude. Some were angry over it but most were distraught. I remember the day I was told I had cancer; it was right after I was rolled out of the colonoscopy room. I was groggy from the test and some woman, who I never met or have seen since, told me matter-of-factly, “Mrs. Scott, you have rectal cancer,” and immediately walked away. No emotion. No empathy and definitely no tact. Luckily for me, I’m a tough broad. My response was, “rectal cancer my ass.”
Since I already knew I was very sick, I didn’t need to be reminded by my medical team when I came to see them how sick I actually was. I knew my chances of survival was slim but my team never acted that way toward me and they never made promises they couldn’t keep. They told me they would do their very best to get me well, and isn’t that all we can ask for? For them to do their best?
Studies have shown that a patient’s attitude is as important as taking medications. A positive (hopeful) outlook helps fight the disease. Stress lowers the immune system and having a doctor with a bad attitude will stress anyone out. So stop with the bad attitude already.
If you, dear doctor tell someone they are a hopeless case, you have already sealed their fate. In their mind they are a “dead man walking” which might not be true. These days there are too many allopathic and holistic treatments that can either cure a sick person or help them manage their disease and maintain a good quality of life. The hospital I volunteer at has many examples of “cured” patients that came from other hospitals and doctors who told them they were hopeless cases. Not all hospitals are privy to the same medicines and neither are all doctors. Just because you can’t help someone doesn’t mean another doctor can’t either. Many times they can.
When we get sick our whole body/mind/spirit need treatment. Our entire being is sick not just one part. It’s important for you dear doctor to understand that. Patients have access to much more information these days and many like me, go online to research different treatments. We see ourselves as a member of our wellness team; actually no, we are the captain of our wellness team. We don’t just want to be told what to do, we want to be part of the decision-making process.
But before any of that happens it starts with the first time we meet you. Your attitude sets the tone as to how our relationship will be, so even if its bad news, please say your words “sweetly.” It will be easier for us to swallow.