July 22, 2022 – What would doctors want patients to understand about the practice of medicine today?
More than 200 American doctors responded to a recent Medscape survey which aimed to find out exactly that. Read on to find out what doctors and primary care specialists say they want their patients to know about their work.
Patients don’t see everything we do
One family doctor noted that patients don’t know that face-to-face time with them is only about one-third of doctors’ work.
They do half a dozen other things that can cause them to be late:
“We not only see patients in the office, but we also answer phone calls, speak with doctors at the hospital about admitted patients, review records, complete prescriptions, meet people from the industry, attend walk-ins…and there are many days when we don’t even get to eat. … These are some of the many reasons why we are late to see patients,” said an internist.
“I have several thousand patients, so when I’m late, it’s not out of disrespect, it’s because I’m pulled in different directions,” commented a family doctor.
“I always help someone else who needed more time while they wait, and they would get the same time if needed,” said a hematologist-oncologist.
“Emergencies of other patients can cause delays in your care. Think of yourself as the patient with the unexpected emergency,” said one emergency doctor.
We care about you
Physicians who responded to the survey wanted patients to know how dedicated they are to helping them, even though the physician may seem rushed or may not be spending as much time with the patient as they would like.
“I care about every patient I care for, and I want to make the right diagnosis and prescribe the right treatment,” said an emergency doctor.
“The main reason we chose medicine is to improve people’s lives. Respect, high income and mental challenge are secondary. We sacrifice personal and family time for our patients on a daily basis,” said a urologist commented.
A dermatologist said: “We are in the business of helping people. We have a duty to always act in your best interest. We are the only profession where this is an absolute. We want you to recover. We want you to understand what is going on with your body/mind. We take care of you and strive to be worthy of your respect.
“We are people too”
A surgical oncologist wanted patients to know that doctors do their best, but are human and therefore imperfect.
“We are capable of making mistakes from time to time. Medicine is not an exact science, and therefore each person will react differently to different therapies,” said another surgeon.
An emergency doctor commented: “We are also people who have feelings. We are hurt by shouting, name-calling, manipulation, kicking, punching, etc.
“Those who are really sick or injured rarely act that way. However, it is always the doctor who is at fault. He would be an extremely rare person who did not commit human error in his work,” he said.
Family physicians also wanted patients to know this:
“We are human with all the same family, life stresses and emotions outside of work as everyone else.”
“That I too am a person with a family of my own and, occasionally, health problems. We also deserve a vacation.
We have a lot of training
An ER doctor wanted patients to know how much time and effort it takes to become a doctor.
“We went to school and studied a lot to get to where we are. We have reasons to do things that may not seem obvious. You can’t become a doctor by reading stuff on the internet,” said an internist.
A pathologist said, “I would like patients to understand the really hard work and dedication required. For me, 4 years of medical school, 4 years of residency and a year of scholarship. It took me 9 years to start practicing my specialties in anatomical and clinical pathology. And every day I prayed to my God, don’t let me make a mistake in judgment and hurt anyone.
“Luckily I didn’t, but I don’t think it matters to anyone, or anyone cares. I would never make the same personal sacrifices I did in hindsight.
Doctors advice for patients
- Please ask if you have a question about your diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment options. No reputable doctor will stand in the way of your wish to get a second opinion.
- Familiarize yourself with your medical history and be patient when you are asked similar questions many times.
- Please do not wait until the last minute to obtain refills or request letters or documents.
- Please understand that we cannot adequately resolve multiple issues in one visit.