Monday, February 01, 2010


I can think of few people more intimidating, or blunt, than some doctors. It's not that they don't care, because if they didn't care they wouldn't be doctors. It's that they become so rushed, so irritated with stupid people (understandably so), that they end up treating all people the same.

Definitely most doctors aren't this way. Most are are patient and good communicators. I have seen both types from a professional standpoint, and personal standpoint. Thankfully most of my doctors have been the good kind, yet I've definitely had a few doctors I was not happy with. And I work with a few too.

I've had patients, too, complain to me that, "My doctor didn't let me get a word in edge wise. He explained nothing. I don't even know why I'm in the hospital."

I have empathy for these patients, because I had one doctor who was such a prick he would treat me like I was the stupidest lot on earth. He'd tell me what I was going to do, and it didn't matter what I thought. Literally, he made me feel like the idiot he was treating me as.

Of course I was seeing him because for some reason in 1995 my asthma took a turn for the worse after several years of behaving, and he was a pulmonologist who was highly recommended by a friend. Plus I was in a new town with a new job.

I got to the point I'd rather have no doctor than a doctor who treated me like that. So I fired him. I went the next three years without a doctor, moved to Shoreline where I got my recent job, and the process of moving (and the flu) landed me admitted here at Shoreline in Feb. of 1998 for the first time since I was discharged from NJH.

Ironically, the day before I was admitted in 1998 I had an appointment with an Internist I worked with here at Shoreline Medical. I chose this doctor because he
seemed to be normal. And I chose an Internist because there are no Pulmonologists nor allergists where I live, and I didn't want to travel. And I certainly didn't want to see a family doctor and gamble that he knew how to manage asthma.

So, the very first thing I said to my new doctor (We'll call him Dr. Breath) was this: "Look, I'm the kind of patient who likes to have control. I study asthma, I know all the new meds, and I want a say in my therapy. Likewise, I want you and I to work as a team to managing my asthma. I can't handle another doctor like my last one. Talking to him was like talking to a brick wall."

Funny thing was, Dr. Breath did his residency with my previous doctor, so he knew him well. "Hey," Dr. Breath said. "I'm fine with that. And I know he can be a hard doctor."

And from there we launched a positive doctor/patient relationship. He provides his wisdom and expertise, and I provide my experience and my asthma expertise. I never over rule him. And, when I come up with an idea, I usually lead him on so he thinks it was his idea. That's fine. I don't need credit.

So, here is my advice to all asthmatics, and anyone who has a chronic illness and has to see doctors on a regular basis:
  1. Respect your doctor, yet don't let him intimidate you.
  2. Know you are the boss, not your doctor.
  3. If you and your doctor don't click, hire a new one.
  4. If you question the care you're given, ask for a referral
  5. Make him take the time to answer your questions
  6. Come with a list of questions and recommendations (on paper if necessary)
  7. Do not leave his office unless all your questions are answered, and he responds to your recommendations.
  8. Do not let him leave the office if you are not satisfied.
  9. And remember, no question is dumb if you do your research and are prepared

Keep in mind here that doctors are busy, and they have a day stacked with many appointments, and they get paid by the appointment, not by how much time they spend with each patient. So a rushed doctor is often a blunt doctor. No disrespect meant, that's just the way it is.

Some people like this. Some people prefer a doctor to take charge. Yet, if you're the kind of person like me who is wise to his condition and wants to be a part of the therapy, then it's up to you to find a doctor who fits your personality type, and fits your agenda.

Related posts:

The 6 types of asthma doctors

1 comment:

  1. I like this list, especially #9, and I REALLY like the word "team." I think that's a key word to a good dr./patient (or parent) relationship.

    I actually don't mind a blunt doctor at all--I'm pretty blunt myself--but I DO mind when they rush us, lol.