Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Patient Patient

This is For Dr. Elisa Choi at Health Care Associates

Patient,Adjective: Able to wait without becoming annoyed or anxious

Patient,Noun: a person receiving or registered to receive medical treatment.

definitions from The Oxford American Dictionary

This post is about being a patient, a patient patient. I have much experience to speak from. I will start by giving a few tips- they come from my own mistakes, don't think I have any illusions of perfection. I will then make some comments about courtesy and concentration. Your courtesy and your doctor's concentration.

Tip #1 the doctor's schedule: If you must schedule tightly always opt for the first appointment of the day. The things that cause delay are cumulative, and the further into the day your appointment is the more likely delay will be.

Tip #2 your schedule: Assume that the doctor will be running ahead if you are late, and that she will be running late if you are early or on time. It's like getting to the airport.

Tip #3 post visit schedule: Assume there will be delays. If you have an appointment right after your doctor your blood pressure will be high and they will want an EKG. Be realistic for your own sake and everybody else's.

Tip #4, amuse yourself: Always bring a book. Unfortunately magazine articles are usually not long enough! Also, one is inclined to leave them in the waiting room, unaware that the doctor is going to be called out of the examining room as soon as your clothes are off and you will have to twiddle your thumbs for ten minutes.

Tip #5, wardrobe: Dress appropriately, which in this case means stuff you can take off and put back on without the assistance of your valet.

Tip #6, infantile rewards: Promise yourself a brownie at Souper Salad if you're a good boy, then be a good boy. Pompous CEO's and very important consultants don't get brownies unless they can be regular folks for an hour.

What is this about? It is about a number of things. The most obvious is this: understand the doctors position, the need on her part to respond to the unexpected. We all have the need for reassurance from our care givers, and mine at least are always ready to extend it. The more so when a problem is a surprise. You expect to receive that from your doctor; so did the 8 people who were scheduled ahead of you, and if she is late it is because one, probably more than one of those ahead of you needed exactly what you would expect for yourself. Remember that while you're waiting.

Less obvious is this- and it extends to many other situations too: If you freight the atmosphere with tension and impatience you will make it difficult for you doctor to perform at her highest level. As scientific as the profession is, the science deals with test results, blood analysis, reading of images and other highly technical tools. Remember that these are just tools, the application, interpretation; the intuition about when to use which are a very finely honed art. Their application requires focus and concentration, and an environment of respect and understanding.

Your doctor needs to be able to understand you as a person in order to understand the way you express your aches and pains. There has to be an easy exchange, a simpatico between you and the doctor in order for an understanding to be reached, in order that his or her art can feel it's way to the root of what's troubling you. If you greet them with impatience or frustration the tension is simply going to lessen their ability to understand your problem.

It is the patient's responsibility, in fact in all exchanges in life it is always our own responsibility to reach that simpatico, and accept it as a challenge to succeed when it needs some work.

Doctors are people who work under constant stress about their patients well being. They are amazing, committed, and caring people. And they are often good fun and rewarding friends. So go to your next appointment as a patient, and self sufficient, patient. Respect their commitment to their other patients and you will reap rewards in the kind of compassionate care that I always receive at the "BI"

Actually, you'd probably get it anyway, it would just be much more pleasant for you and everyone else if you can manage to behave yourself.

Oh, there is a corollary to Tip#1: If you know you're going to have to kvetch, or are really "into" the science and want every little thing explained technically (that's me, by the way) or just want to chat (well, also me) then take the last appointment. that way she won't have to worry about what dragons are hatching in the waiting room while you're monopolizing her time!

This is my experience, anyway!


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