I learned a while back that I have to be an educated patient. It’s the only way I’ll ever see any improvement in my health.
My health is too important to just assume that every doctor always knows what’s best for my specific case. After all, my endocrinologist may know a bit thyroid issues but really specialize in something else. My rheumatologist might know plenty about rheumatoid arthritis but nothing about my unlabeled connective tissue disease. Or they may know a lot about my conditions, but not enough about the other specialties to figure out how they all connect. No matter how you look at it, I have to be educated.
Unfortunately, some doctors don’t like this. They don’t want to take the time to answer questions. They don’t like being challenged. Most of us have experienced these kinds of doctors.
But then there are the others.
There are the doctors who appreciate my effort. They like talking to a knowledgeable patient. They take the time to answer questions and explain terminology. They maybe disagree with my assessment, but they don’t dismiss it out of hand. They consider it.
Today I saw one of those doctors. I haven’t seen many over the years, but he’s one of them. Dr. T is hard to see. He’s one of the top in his field, so there are long waits to see him. He was looking at charts of my test results today. Actually, three people were looking at the charts: Dr. T, Dr. D who works with him, and a medical student (it’s a teaching hospital, so this happens a lot.) I quietly stood behind them to see the charts, too. Suddenly Dr. T turned to my empty chair, saw me standing behind him, and gestured me over – he wanted me to see my charts! I was shocked, but then he did something that completely stunned me – without being asked, he began to explain the charts. I didn’t know how to read them, and I very much appreciated this explanation.
A little while later Dr. T and Dr. D mumbled to each other. Then they began to explain the medication they wanted me to take and exactly why they wanted me to take it. Unlike doctors who just shove a patient out the door with a prescription, these two wanted me to understand the plan. I explained my discomfort with the potential side effects and Dr. T got slightly impatient. He said that if I want to treat this issue, none of the options are great and I’ll have to make a choice. I agreed, and pointed out that my health is my top priority and that’s exactly why I was questioning everything, because I wanted to be able to make an informed decision. He no only supported me by answering all of my questions, but he even seemed to respect my position.
I left that appointment feeling good about our plan for figuring out the cause of my new symptoms. I felt listened to and respected. I felt like I was a part of the plan for taking care of my body. But mostly I felt that I had an ally, someone who would be there when I needed help and would do his best to provide that help. And isn’t that how we should always feel about our doctors?
Have you ever had one of these doctors? Have most of your doctors been this way? What has your experience been? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!