Help your doctor understand where you’re coming from

A reminder of the risks of desensitization through humour, and that as patients we need to understand how doctors and medical teams may react to us. Groopman’s How Doctors Think has some good examples of patients who defused this risk through preventive remarks (‘I know I may sound a bit crazy….’). Quote:

Humor is an important coping mechanism. We all eventually need to find ways to laugh about even the darkest tragedies.

The dark side of dark humor is that it desensitizes us. In hospitals and medical clinics, such desensitization can cause us physicians to lose empathy for our patients. It can cause us to underestimate their suffering. Perhaps even more importantly, when we physicians lose the ability to appreciate our patients’ perspectives, we also become less able to help them make difficult medical choices.

Think about that the next time you ask your doctor for medical advice or come to her for emotional support. Your physician has emotions too, sometimes very strong ones. But just as often, she has found ways to reduce the strength of her feelings, so she can get through her work day with sanity intact.

That means that your job as a patient is to help your doctor understand where you’re coming from. If you hope to get good guidance from your physician, you need to help her see the world through your eyes. She won’t be able to do that if you remain silent, on the other end of that stethoscope.

Help your doctor understand where you’re coming from.


3 thoughts on “Help your doctor understand where you’re coming from

  1. I was discussing this article with @WellspringCAN just the other day. We both agree that a doctor/patient relationship that goes beyond the chart an diagnosis is for the best – but as a patient, it can be very intimidating to start that connection in a fast-paced clinic where time is extremely tight. I’d love to know if people had suggestions for making that connection in that situation. ~Catherine

    • It is intimidating for the patient on two levels: first, the normal deference to doctors and, secondly, that the patient is still coming to terms with his or her diagnosis and new life situation. Doctors and medical teams have to provide some space and time for this. My own experience was that my clinic did a layering or phasing in of information which was particularly helpful post-relapse, but may have been too quick, and I not quick enough, for my initial treatment. My hope is that by posting these kinds of articles new patients may be better equipped than I was.

  2. Absolutely, Andrew – I think we all hope that the newly diagnosed are going to find these resources, and realize roads are being paved to help ease their journey. Thanks for writing back; the gradual introduction sounds like a good idea. I think it’d be great if they send someone round to your home after a diagnosis to discuss the implication in a more familiar environment – though again, that takes a lot of time. ~Catherine

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