8 things I want my patients to know

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1. I am human, too

You forgot to take your medications? You picked up fast food on the way home? You skipped your exercise because you were too busy and exhausted? You had one two many drinks when out with your friends? You only get a few hours of reliable sleep a night?
Guess what? Me, too. Being a doctor doesn’t make me immune to messing up and not doing what I’m supposed to do. I personally have struggled with obesity my whole adult life, and I am going through many of the same struggles you are. Don’t be afraid to open up and let me know what you are having a hard time with. I don’t expect you to be perfect because I am most certainly not perfect myself.

 

2. Out of sight does not mean out of mind

When I round to see you in the hospital, you may only see me for 5-10 minutes a day. This is not because you are not important. Before and after I enter your room I will have reviewed your chart, ordered tests and medications, consulted with appropriate specialists, discussed your case with your nurse and our unit staff, and have a plan outlined. You may only see me for a few minutes face to face, but I am constantly working behind the scenes to improve your condition and your care.

 

3.Don’t apologize for your body

Many of us hate going to the doctor and getting examined. Be it just a general physical or a more invasive exam like a breast exam, vaginal or rectal exam. You do not have to be ashamed and apologize for any perceived shortcomings. These exams are routine for me, and I am not here to judge you. And guess what? I hate getting these exams done, too! Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and power through it.

 

4. I am a physician because I love it, not for money

Doctors are fortunate to make good salaries. This day in age, most physicians like myself are employed by healthcare systems and are on a fixed salary. This means most of the dollars that come out of your pocket don’t make their way to me. I am also bogged down in loans, many hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical school debt, and it will take me a lifetime to be able to pay them off. So while I can live comfortably, I cannot afford a lavish lifestyle. Medicine is a lifelong career, not a quick way to make a buck.

 

5. I stay up at night worrying about you

When you are under my care, I constantly think about how you are doing. If you were having a bad day when I rounded on you in the hospital, I’m likely to be mulling your case over as I try to sleep. Your health and your safety keep me up at night, and I will do everything within my means to help you. Your worries are my worries, too, and I carry the names and faces of my patients with me for years.

 

6. I get stressed out, too

Part of being a physician is learning to leave our personal lives at the door. When I enter your room, I may have just suffered a terrible personal loss, be feeling unwell m, or just stressed with run of the mill life issues. I do my absolute best to make sure that none of those stressors come into the exam room with me, but I’m not perfect. If I seem tired or sad or grouchy, I may be having a bad day, too. If you notice this, try to give me the benefit of the doubt because I’m probably trying my best. If you are worried my stress is affecting your care, let me know. I may not realize just how much my own stressors are coming across to you.

 

7. I am on your side, but we may not always agree

Many times it can feel like patients and doctors have a different opinion on what constitutes the best plan of care. If you have pain, I may not think giving you strong opiate pain medications is the right treatment. You may think you need surgery or a procedure to fix your medical issue, and I may think you need medication treatment or to give it time and see what progresses. I may not be able to offer you a quick fix for your problem, or a fix at all, but I will always prioritize your goals of care. If I don’t think I can meet those goals, I will be direct and tell you.

 

8. I don’t always have the answer

Doctors hate having to say “I don’t know,” but the truth is we often don’t. Saying “I don’t know” does not mean that I haven’t given your concerns full consideration. In medicine, absolute certainty is not the norm. A lot of conditions like abdominal pain, headaches, fatigue, joint aches and pains, viral symptoms cannot be attributed to any one cause, they just get better and go away by themselves. Some chronic conditions, like chronic pain, we may never be able to define well or understand the underlying cause. If I don’t know I will give you my best and honest professional opinion, but I may not always be able to give you a definite answer.

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