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Night Shift Doctor Mom Stories #3: When the Doctor Becomes the Patient…

Night Shift Doctor Mom Stories #3: When the Doctor Becomes the Patient…

I could have gone years in my practice of medicine without ever realizing there are lessons to be learned from being on the other side of the doctor patient relationship. It was not until I became a patient that it dawned on me that I should change some things.

By no means does my story involve a terminal illness or a prolonged hospitalization but I learned a lot from my experience.

In medical training, providers really aren’t made to feel what it is like being on the other side of the doctor patient relationship. We unfortunately are unaware of how our words and actions are perceived by those we work so hard to serve.

When I was sitting in the patient seat, I realized that there are three things that are key in the communication between doctors and patients. I was faced with a protracted ailment that was not clearly defined and could have easily gone done the incorrect path of treatment if I did not have the medical knowledge to know better.

My takeaways from my experience as a patient are as follows:

  1. Another set of ears. Clear language. The value of a patient having a friend, family member or spouse present during the patient encounter is key. This allows for more ears receiving the information and possibly contributing vital insight into the diagnosis. Having family present can raise some questions that may not have come up when you are alone. My hubby was not present with me at the pivotal appointment and had I not been medically savvy I might have gone down the wrong treatment path. There are many times when I have to catch myself and speak to my patients like I am speaking to my mother to ensure that they get the information in plain terms. Taking a few extra moments to explain clearly can save a lot of misunderstanding down the road.
  2. Snapshots versus Movies. Every night that I care for patients in the Emergency Department I am faced with a snapshot of each patient on the worst moment of their lives. Emotions are charged and often the data about them is limited. I have to make time sensitive decisions based on limited data and little knowledge of my patients’ back story. I deal in snapshots. Everyone needs to have a provider that sees the birds eye view and the movie of your life to be present when the diagnosis becomes clear. For me, my Orthopedist was witness to my movie involving my right knee. The Rheumatologist saw a snapshot and drew her conclusions and made recommendations based on this.
  3. Second Opinions are Smart. It is a smart idea to get a second opinion when given a big diagnosis. For me my second opinion came in the form of causal conversations with an expert in the diagnosis that I said to have. I realize that I had the advantage of having medical knowledge and knowing where to find out more about what I was being told. When I tell someone who comes to see me in the Emergency Department that they may have a new diagnosis, I always encourage them to follow up and get a second opinion.

My recall of my experience as a patient, has been drawn upon on numerous occasions as I serve my patients night after night in the Emergency Department. I have to constantly remind myself of these points. It doesn’t take a drastic patient encounter as a physician to have an appreciation of the vulnerability of being a patient.

Be strong. Be brave. Unleash your greatness!

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Charmaine Gregory

I am a nocturnist Emergency Physician, wife, mom to three vivacious cherubs as well as a greatness and virtual fitness coach. I help busy women like myself reclaim their fitness and wellness mojo and unleash their greatness! Watch my story and get a complimentary health assessment here: My Story If you are like me and have picky eaters in your fold, join my Facebook group, Picky Eaters Strong Mom here: Picky Eater Strong Mom Facebook Group

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