What it means to have a respectful doctor

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!

17 Responses to What it means to have a respectful doctor

  1. joynpain2 says:

    I think doctors like that are easier to come by at teaching hospitals and hospitals close to them (those that compete with them). I am one of the lucky ones with a team of good doctors. That’s even harder to come by. But I have found almost all of the doctors I’ve seen in the city since moving here to be much more patient and educated than the ones outside of the city. Before moving here, I only had one good doctor and he was hard to come by. I am so glad that you have found your ally on this journey. They truly are priceless to us.

    • chronicrants says:

      Congratulations Joy! That’s really fantastic! I wish I could agree about teaching hospitals – almost all of my doctors have been at teaching hospitals and unfortunately, many of them are still arrogant and unwilling to take the time to explain things. I’ll have to keep searching out the good few.

      • joynpain2 says:

        Why don’t you try getting upcoming referrals from your new doc? I have found many of my “team members” by being referred to them from the very first one.

      • chronicrants says:

        Sometimes that works well. Unfortunately, this new guy is in a subspecialty and doesn’t work with the other kinds of doctors I need. Otherwise, it would be great – I’d definitely trust his recommendations!

      • Karen J says:

        I wonder if he would *know of* other good docs, even if he can’t make the official referrals? Or, the office staff may… (plus, be easier to communicate with – more often than the 6 months between appointments, anyway).

      • chronicrants says:

        Hmm, good idea. I’ll have to ask.

    • Karen J says:

      Indeed, hurray for finding your team, Joy!

      Bright Blessings ~

  2. Lorna says:

    Dr T sounds like a keeper. Glad you had a positive appt.
    My GP ( I think that’s your primary care Dr) is a fab lady. I go every month to have a chat, literally! When I was being diagnosed she went out of her way to send me to anyone she thought would help. Also she supported me in my medical retirement and benefit claims. At the hospital my pain Dr is a great guy, knowledgeable and listens, he once told me he would like to peg me out in a vat of steroids and take me out when I was brand new again. The rest of the pain team is brill too! My rheumy who I adored left last year, he was head hunted. He used to discuss my results explain MRI pics etc and treated the whole of me. The new guy I met in July after two locums seems ok, treated me like a person and discussed treatment.
    Orthopedics don’t know what to do with me, I am an anaesthetic risk so they won’t operate and I wanted to slap the condescending man from muscoskeletal.
    So I consider myself blessed.
    Hugs xx

    • chronicrants says:

      That sounds like an interesting mix, Lorna. It’s a shame you have a few not-so-great ones, but it also sounds like you have some incredible doctors on your team – yay! Congratulations 🙂

  3. Karen J says:

    I hope that the original “long wait to see him” doesn’t equal “long waits to see him *again*”! (punctuation overdose, anyone?)


    • chronicrants says:

      Unfortunately, it’s worse this time around. The original appointment took 6 months to get. The 3 month followup took 5 months to schedule. Now I should have another 3 month followup, but his first available is in April!

      • Karen J says:

        Oh, I’m sooo sorry to hear that!
        I guess even the “good” doctors have to work with “broken” systems, eh?

      • chronicrants says:

        Well, in this case the problem is that he’s so popular. Also, he only sees patients a couple days a week because he does research the other days. It’s easy to see the not-so-good doctors because there’s no demand. But the good ones have a waiting list.

  4. […] I left my doctor’s office the other day, he asked if he could discuss my case in their case study session. He promised he […]

  5. stuckintexas says:

    I just saw a new pulmonologist this week. I was full of high hopes. They’ve been dashed.

    He was very disinterested in anything I had to say, kept mentioning how he’s the top doc for my condition, but he doesn’t agree I have the condition. It would be great if that were true, but after 5 years and several other pulmos, it’s him that’s wrong.

    As an aside – did you know people live to be 30, 40, even 50 years old without knowing a pulmonologist from a urologist, an endocrinologist from a neurologist? What a life!

    • chronicrants says:

      I’m sorry to hear that SiT! Did he give any reason for suggesting all of the previous docs were wrong?

      I’m always amazed by the concept of *not* seeing specialists constantly. How great that must be!

  6. […] What it means to have a respectful doctor […]

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