Top 10 Ways to Annoy Your Doctor (By accident vs. on purpose!)
A few months ago, Jenny Stowe sent me a link to her article about 10 Ways to Irritate Your Doctor, wanting me to re-post it. As far as I can tell, it’s a marketing site which sells online Masters’ degrees in healthcare. One way to Irritate Your Doctor that isn’t included in the post is mis-spelling/saying their name. (I actually really don’t mind this as it happens a lot to me because I have a funny name that doesn’t sound as it is written). She addressed me as “Jaotte” – my first and middle initial and my last name mashed together, like the front of my e-mail address. Spam? Yah, but I’m indulging it.
Swamped with other endeavours, I hadn’t been blogging much, but finally I had a look at the article. Hmmm. While some of the advice is reasonable, I was rather leery of sharing it. Yes, the overall level of respect for physicians seems to be in decline; I do want to be regarded as an expert but for me, ‘gentle scepticism’ is preferable to ‘total obedience’ in my patients.
My blog is all about transparency, being human, making myself (and the profession) accessible, etc. Sure, I’m a pompous, proud nose-in-the-air physician at times, but I get humbled pretty quickly. Every once in a while I think “ohhhh yeahhhh, I’m a d-o-c-t-o-r!” and other times I think “oh yah, I’m a doctor? how did that happen!?”
I didn’t really want to endorse the article but then I saw value in explaining why it rubbed me the wrong way.
My response to Ms. Stowe:
. . .
I’m sorry I didn’t reply to this earlier.
I did have a read and would have been uncomfortable linking to it from my blog. I think it promotes the view that physicians are condescending jerks.
I would say that nearly all of my patients have done or will do one of those 10 [“annoying”] things at some point; it is a physician’s job to treat the patient and the disease, and remembering the whole person may involve redirecting their questions (or noticing that they are asking a lot of questions – maybe there are other worries or stressors on their mind?), asking them to make a follow-up appointment for other issues, excusing a part of the family from the room, etc. It is very common for patients to describe symptoms vaguely or to not know their medications, but you know… diseases don’t read the textbooks (and neither do patients!). I do want my patients to be empowered but I’m not averse to being the one who guides them toward taking ownership for their health. I have a lot to learn in this regards; motivating patients to take responsibility is one of our greatest challenges, but it’s also such a joy when I get to watch it unfolding.
I looked online for more tips regarding this and found my favourite How to Avoid Annoying Your Doctor on E-how has my favourite:
Now heck, I do get “annoyed” or frustrated by patients sometimes, but as my self-awareness improves, I begin to know that when I’m irritated, I’m missing something. Maybe I’m not giving the patient what they need? Maybe I’m not following my preceptor’s super role-modelling (using reflective language, “you seem like you are really upset/asking a lot of questions/have a lot of concerns” or acknowledging that you aren’t sure how to help, etc.). Maybe I’m not seeing the ‘red-flags.’ “Is there something I’m missing?” usually saves me.
I’m young and inexperienced; I kind of suck at this stuff. However, I’m honest with my patients – I say “I don’t know” a lot, or “I’m just going to go ask someone with more experience” – and I’m learning. My evaluations always say that I’m thorough and empathetic, but I know that I’m critical of patients who aren’t motivated or who behave in a way that doesn’t seem to acknowledge that I’m trying to help them. To be honest, I could use a course 101 in Self-Awareness, and probably 202 in Motivating and Empowering Patients. The other thing that comes to mind is that most doctors (unless they are failing at wellness/self-care) are patients too! Hopefully we remember that when we set expectations for patients.
If you’ve read this far, you deserve a reward: For those times when you are trying to piss off the doc, there is a list for that too! It’s written from a primary-care physician’s perspective, and it is bang-on hilarious. With gems like this:
4. Smoke a pack of cigarettes or several cigars just before going to the doctor’s office. Then when you are asked if you smoke, say you don’t.
you’ve got to chuckle! Check it out – Dr. Rob at Musings of a Distractible Mind has plenty of other silly stuff.