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You expect your Doctor to feel your pain. Do you feel theirs?

Posted Oct 03 2008 11:32am
When most people go to see the Doctor, it's because something is wrong. And when something is wrong, you expect the person you tell to have some compassion and empathy for your discomfort and vulnerability. You expect that from your Doctor and when you don't get it, you feel put off, upset and have no problem telling everyone "what a jerk" your Doctor is. Some may resort to going to someone else.

People admitted to the hospital are much more vulnerable. At times they may be so ill that they are unable to communicate or speak for themselves. If no family is available, your Doctor acts as your advocate, making potential life or death decisions for you. In situations like these your Doctor may make those decisions by imagining "What would I do if this were a member of my own family?" Your Doctor is feeling your pain. Who feels your Doctor's pain?

Contrary to popular belief, the traditional Hippocratic oath doesn't say "First, do no harm". The original oath can be read here; http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/doctors/oath_classical.html. It also dosen't say that a Doctor cares for others at the expense of himself or his family. But in fact, many of us have done just that.

When inclement weather keeps other people from traveling, or a "snow emergency" looms at dawn, illness occurs in the family or work force, some still carry out their duties. Among them are paramedics, policemen, nurses and Doctors. I, myself, have gone to work with a 104 fever from flu to take care of people MUCH less ill than I was. But, I didn't give it a second thought. In over 20 years, I've only missed one day of work. We have become civil servants, expected to be at a certain place at a given time.

How many of you would have left your family during an emergency to go down the street to take care of your neighbor? And have that neighbor express no appreciation for the fact that you chose them over your own family? Patients don't think that way.

My family has sacrificed more than I can ever repay them for. I've missed my kid's birthdays, first steps, lost teeth, school dances and plays, family vacations, not been there to take care of them when they were sick. Left my wife by herself to deal with house and home, kids, family and urgent issues. There were times I was so detached, I didn't appreciate the fact that things were still running smoothly when I did get home. I don't have to deal with things that run "smooth" so that didn't catch my attention. My oldest son wouldn't give it a second thought if I said I had to go to take care of a patient while talking to him on the phone, even if he was talking to me about a concern with one of his children; my grandchildren. "I'll have to call you back". My wife isn't my wife anymore either.

How many of you get phone calls in the middle of the night that aren't a wrong number? How many times have you been out to a movie, tried to attend a dinner party, a picnic, a day at the pool, cutting your grass, planting flowers with your kids or spouse, etc., and had to stop (and possibly leave) because you were "on call"?

Can I or my colleagues regret the attention we have given to our patients? Do I regret the countless patient encounters, the lives I have literally saved myself? How much different would the world be today if we didn't do what we do?

I think most of us would just like to hear "thank you" a little more often. And maybe, not have to take care of sooooooo many people who are abusing the system and making us all way too cynical.

So the next time you visit your Doctor's office, they answer a call after hours or weekends, or you're looking up at them as you recover from an illness in the hospital, remember who and what they left behind to take care of you.

Thank YOU for listening.

Doc B

My opinion is free.
Advice is worth exactly what you pay for it.
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