You can change your doctor! I am not trying to be oppositional and I don’t have a problem with medical doctors in general. I have been lucky enough to receive the care of severalwonderful medical professionals and might not even be here without their help. I have even written in my Jar the Ground blog about a doctor who I feel blessed to have caring for me. I have great respect for people in all healthcare professionals. But I have also encountered some real second-rate doctors. And I know of people who have experienced the same thing. The problem, believe it or not, is NOT the bad doctors. The problem lies within ourselves and the beliefs that our society breeds within us from a very young age. We are taught that people with MDs and PhDs are the pinnacle of perfection. We are told to listen to them because they know best. We are taught not to question these highly educated and trained individuals. Though opinions are changing. People are starting to question doctor’s motives and the quality of care they provide.
This post comes as a result of three bad incidents, one of them mine and the other two experiences of friends. Each story serves to expose and explain three distinct problems that some doctors have. There are many GREAT doctors out there, but there are also ones
that are flawed and show one or more of these symptoms described here. The flaws as I see them are:
- An inability of a doctor to recognize that they might not have the knowledge or skills to help a patient and take action on that realization by providing a referral to a medical professional who can better serve the patient.
- An obvious lack of empathy for the patient resulting in an awful bedside manner and sometimes unthinkable treatment of the patient.
- Rank incompetence either thru stupidity, lack of proper training, or disinterest in medicine (Hard to believe, but I actually know a doctor who once told me he got into medicine for the money, only for the money. He is a shockingly bad doctor.)
I have a friend who has been seeing a clinical psychologist for certain difficulties she has been having. Meanwhile, she recently went to a local testing center and discovered that she has ADHD. Upon learning of this her therapist told her he would be happy to work with her. But over the coming weeks it became clear he had no training or expertise of any kind with ADHD. But he kept insisting she “explain to him what she had learned” in all her reading to “make sure she understood the issues.” After two months of this my friend decided that her therapist was using her to learn about something he was too lazy to research on his own and he was just trying not to lose her as a patient. When she confronted him on her final visit, he seemed to have no idea that he was doing her a disservice and that he should have just admitted to not understanding or have experience treating that particular disorder.
My second story involves the worst case of deplorable bedside manner I have ever heard of. I have a friend who has cancer. She has been to stage 4 and back and is in remission. But her oncologist was not forth coming about details like life expectancy in the face of the illness. Finally my friend asked to meet the doctor specifically to discuss life expectancy details. The doctor sent her an email saying there was no need to meet in person. The doctor then (in the email) stated that life expectancy was 5 years, 10 at the outside. There was no “sorry”, no attempt to comfort, no offer for a personal visit. My friend was crushed and felt extremely alone in the face of such an impersonal communication.
My third story involves myself. About 8 months ago I fell. This fall hurt a lot and I felt a crunch in my mid back. I have spinal issues. These are well documented in my medical records and whenever I have any neck or back injury I am supposed to have an X-ray and possibly an MRI to ensure I have not caused severe damage. I called my neurosurgeon and he was out. His nurse confirmed that I needed to come in for an X-ray. She could not get the order in and my neurosurgeon was in surgery. She told me to contact my primary care physician immediately to arrange a spinal X-ray. I contacted my primary care family doctor and explained the situation to the nurse. The primary care physician did not respond to my message and so I went in the next day to the neurosurgeon’s office and he made sure I had the X-rays right then and there. At the end of that day I was finally contacted by the nurse of my primary care physician and he had denied my request to see him and get an X-ray ASAP. He claimed it was not urgent or necessary.
I fired my primary care physician. If he had taken 10 seconds to look at my chart he would have been able to see that I should be seen immediately. He just could not be bothered. I have since change physicians and am very happy with the service.
I admit that I saw the signs over a year before. A sense from this doctor that patients (or at least me) were over reacting and did not need his urgent attention. He also could not sympathize with my chronic pain and often implied that it was some how my fault.
These three stories, exemplify the different types of poor medical care that people can encounter with bad doctors. I believe that we all have to be vigilant and question what our doctors do and say, as well as how they say it. I wish it was not true, but there is a shortage of medical professionals and the standards for selection at various levels seem to be slipping. The point is that there are still plenty of great doctors out there, but you need to be your own advocate for proper and sympathetic care. So, when you feel you are not getting good care or you feel uncomfortable with your doctor, change doctors.
Feel free to tell your story of either great or poor care at the hands of medical professionals or the American medical system.