Just remember. This is supposed to be funny, but with a side of truth.
You know, my life is full and interesting. I get to help people every day and do what I love. That makes me one of the luckiest people I know. I will never forget that. I used to think, before I actually went into medicine, that every patient that would walk in that door wanted to be there and would be ready to be a part of their own healthcare team. Weirdly, that is not the case. This is true for a large portion of my patients, but for some, I am not so sure.
As I reflect over the last 20 plus years, I realize that there are several types of patients in my practice. Let’s review.
There is the patient that you inadvertently become friends with and become attached to. To some extent, this happens to me all the time. I always try to bond with my patients in attempt to care for them better. I try to get insight into their lives to help them through whatever issues they are trying to solve. They always tell you in medical school never to get attached, but sometimes I can’t help it. In my mind, it is a reflection of the depth of my caring. I am always careful to respect doctor patient boundaries though. It’s not like I go party at their houses or anything.
There is the patient that doubts literally everything you say. I mean everything. For every plan you come up with, they have a counter plan or they doubt that it will work. They question your every move. They constantly re ask the same questions to see if they can trap you into giving a different answer. I realize that most of the time, this has nothing to do with me. Often, these are patients that have been bounced from office to office without actually getting the help that they need. Or, worse yet, they have had a bad experience or suffered malpractice and this makes it very difficult for them to trust any doctor. I try to take that into consideration when working with them.
There is the patient who thinks THEY are the doctor. You know the one. They grew up with family members or friends that are physicians and they know just enough to be dangerous….to themselves and your 16 plus years of schooling are not going to change their mind.
There is the entitled patient, who thinks only of themselves and becomes indignant when attention is not focused on them. These are the patients that become irate when their pap smear is interrupted because I have to run to the hospital to save someone who is hemorrhaging. The “big picture” is somewhat lost on them. They want special treatment and have tantrums when things do not go their way, regardless of the reason. I try to set very clear communication and expectations with these folks, but sometimes they get upset nonetheless.
There is the patient that “never goes to the doctor.” This is the patient that hasn’t been to the doctor in years because they haven’t had any symptoms. This is the patient that doesn’t trust doctors and has to make sure you know it by repeating the first two statements multiple times during their visit. However, if this same patient suddenly has an issue that they determine to be urgent, you had better drop everything and address it right away. Never mind that they have neglected their health for years. It is up to you to fix it….and quickly……so they can go back to never coming in for check-ups.
Let’s not forget the self-diagnosing patient. We all know that with the help of Google, our friends, our family and the chiropractor, we can figure anything out on our own, even before reporting to the doctor’s office. Those are the folks that come in convinced they have a rare tropical disease because Doctor Google said so after they typed in their symptoms. It is often very difficult to talk them out of it, but I try. Half the time, they are apologizing for looking stuff up in Google, as they are insisting that it has to be correct!
There is also the patient with overbearing family members. In my case, this most often presents and the teenage patient with the anxious parent. The parent is often on a covert fact-finding mission to discover if the teen is sexually active or not. They talk over the patient, and try to fill in all the details to show how concerned they are, but then don’t really seem to want to hear what the teen has to say. I get that they want to make sure the patient gets what she needs, but this behavior only shuts down any potential successful communication that I was hoping to have the patient.
There is a final category. This is the one we spend our whole careers hoping to encounter: the patient that reminds you why you went into medicine in the first place. This is the patient that appreciates what you do for them and how you care for them. This is the patient that is nice to your hardworking staff. This is the patient that follows through with what you recommend. This is the patient that talks with you not at you at the office.
The bottom line is that my job offers infinite variety. All of these patient types keep me on my toes and my mind fresh and ready for anything. They each have their own advantages and challenges. It’s not exactly how I thought it would be, but I wouldn’t change a thing.