Bedside Manner

I just finished reading a very interesting article in the New York Times about doctors with poor “bedside manner”. It discussed the different kinds of communication and empathy problems that cause patients to go away feeling frustrated or angry as well as the various methods that are being experimented with to try and combat the problem (which is increasingly common). Some of the stories are dramatic. I’m not sure what to say about this whole thing, other than that I do see it as a problem. I’ve seen a very large number of different doctors in the past several years and while several of them have been excellent and made me feel pretty comfortable, it has been somewhat of a struggle to find them sometimes. I’ve had many doctors who I was frustrated with.

One of my two usual problems with the bedside manner of my doctors wasn’t discussed in the article, probably because one of them isn’t terribly common and the other is a byproduct of other issues (which were mentioned somewhat). The first is that I often feel, on meeting with a new doctor particularly, that I am an exciting freak to be poked at and studied rather than a person with feelings and a life. I’m a “facinomia” (as one doctor told me on hearing of this problem). My problem is something unexpected and not well understood, which makes it very interesting. I understand and appreciate this, but I am not a simulation to be played with on an unfeeling computer or something in a test tube to be stared at and poked. I have feelings and a strong desire not to be overly stared at and poked. Not to mention I actually want to be listened to and talked to when I go to see a doctor! The second problem I encounter is the doctors (or worse, nurses and assistants) who think that they could fix me if I just cooperated. Look, my very smart, very talented, very specialized neurologist can’t “fix” it, so you have no chance in hell. I’m not saying you can’t help, but maybe just listening to my problem (which is often not at all or in any way related to my facinating headache issue) and helping me with that will make a difference in my experience of the headache (which *is* the goal, right? I mean, if I didn’t mind the way it was, it wouldn’t be an issue).

I find it interesting that they are looking into this issue so closely and some of the things that are being tried to improve the situation are interesting. Now, a blog writer whose blog I read also points out that she has overheard some med students who think that the classes and evaluations on bedside manner are stupid, but I have to say that I agree with her in thinking that dismissing such things are rather indicative of doctors who won’t be good at interacting with their patients. Those classes and stuff aren’t a crock, believe me, I wish some of the doctors I’ve seen recently had paid more attention during those classes!

One thing I learned from the NYT article is that I should tell doctors when they aren’t being good at listening or talking to me. And I never have been afraid of changing doctors when I didn’t like one, but now I may consider sending the former doctor a letter explaining why I changed. But hopefully it will never come up again!

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