Let’s Talk About: Doctors
Doctors; the No. 1 Tool in Healing
Doctors are a really interesting subject, especially in the eyes of something that is considered an invisible illness. Some are particularly progressive and will respect both you and your illness while helping treat it. Others, however, are non-believers, and literally become a tool, sans the healing.
I want to stress with this post – when you find the right doctors, they’re angels. Angels sent from heaven while the devil plays the friggin harpsichord. I have so many doctors, nurses, and specialists that I am grateful to. But to find them, it took me a really bloody long time, and I had to go through a line up of people who just weren’t right for me. This is how I dealt with them without becoming a permanent anxiety attack.
Lauren Conrad was once asked in an interview what her favourite position was, and her snappy, brilliant response was ‘CEO’. You, my friend, are CEO of your own body. You’re in charge, you’re making the decisions and you’re entirely within your right to say no. You might not be the professional, but you are the owner of the body in question. Don’t let someone dig that grave for you.
I like to approach it following this method; if you are CEO, then your body is the company, and everyone you allow to work with it is an employee. That instantly changes the dynamic with you and the doctor: they’re the expert, but it’s your company.
So where do you come in?
It becomes an odd dynamic, and I’m not suggesting that you suddenly take charge of ALL medical decisions. I am, however, saying that sometimes doctors recommend things that you aren’t comfortable with. If your gut says isn’t the right thing for you, listen.
I’ve have more than my fair share of doctors who have called me paranoid, stubborn or simply wrong. It hurts, and it’s not fair on you, but the second you feel that you’re being ignored or belittled, your questions are going unanswered, the solution is ‘cope for a little while’, or said doctor raises their voice at you; run.
To streamline the process of finding the right doctor, I put together a list of questions; ones I use when I’m going into a first appointment.
- Here are my pre-existing conditions, can you work with these?
- My main goal is to (insert main goal here; I usually say reduce my pain). Do you see that as being achievable?
- I also see (insert your list of other doctors here); I’m hoping you’d be happy to communicate with them, so I don’t have to convert messages between you. Is that possible?
- Will you be willing to give me copies of all my tests and scans?
It sounds like a job interview, doesn’t it? The last two questions are particularly important; often, when you have so many specialists working with and on you, they forget to communicate with each other, and leave you to be the messenger. But if you don’t have a medical degree, or even a 100% coherent mind, the message becomes jumbled, and that’s a pain for everyone. Asking them to communicate is important, but having a copy of scans is too – if you can’t convey what the specialist was telling you to another, at the very least you can show them the blood tests.
I also have a run list – meaning, signs in the first appointment that tell you to walk away. Sometimes, unfortunately, this is necessary, and I guarantee that you’ll have to do it more than a few times.
- Dismissing other doctors that you have found brilliant
- Dismissing you and issues you raise
- Telling you that you’ll have to go through ‘a period of pain’ and you’ll have to ‘cope’ without 8972% strong reasoning
- Talking over you – I’m an advocate of there being a time and a place for calling people out on this. However, the doctors office is not one of them. If they talk over you, without a hint of a reason, leave.
- Any raise in voice. Your doctor is supposed to be in charge of your care, not yelling at you.
- Asking for a psychologist to consult before they keep working with you, although you tell them you’re seeing one, or comfortable with your mental state right now
These are my warning bells, and so far they’ve been pretty effective in keeping those who won’t help you away. Having said that, if you do end up using a ‘run’ list like mine, you do have to keep in mind that you aren’t always right, and sometimes people need a little warming up to. If a doctor really knows what they’re talking about, it might be worth a second appointment.
Of course, sometimes the doctors that aren’t for you slip through the cracks and you’ll have to stand up to them. This is especially possible when you’re in hospital, and you don’t get to choose who works with you. It’s even more difficult when you’ve been sitting in an uncomfortable hospital bed, you have 7 needles and wire attached to you and you’re wearing three-day-old pyjamas.
Tricks to keep in mind
Once, when I was 17, I had one surgeon and his 6 interns all standing over me, poking at my appendix-bloated stomach, while I was without my parents, speaking in Tamil. It’s confusing, scary, and frankly, not on. It’s difficult, but you need to learn to clearly and calmly tell them what you need.
Phrases that help:
- Can you please explain what’s going on?
- Please stop touching me without my consent, it’s very painful
- I would prefer if you came back when my parents are here
- I understand that you’re the professional, but I am not comfortable right now.
Other tricks to keep in mind are that you can call anyone out for interrupting you, especially if it’s rude and intentional. If they’re being 100% unreasonable and you are beside yourself, use the call button. Several times. Just press it constantly. Believe me, the nurses know what’s up and if you’re distressed, they’ll lay down the law.
If all else fails, start crying. Usually, in hospitals, the biggest issue is a lack of sensitivity – the doctors aren’t trying to be rude, they’re trying to be efficient, and aren’t considering you in the process. Crying is the fastest was to remind them that you’re overwhelmed, scared, tired and hurting – there’s no reasoning with a crying person.
Things to remember
- The nurses are your friends, and if you meet them with kindness, they’ll respond
- Everyone is run off their feet – if you can be patient, do.
- Don’t. Sign. Anything. Not without someone else looking at it – you’re almost guaranteed to miss something
- There’s a call button. You are entirely within your right to press it, especially if there are 72 doctors in your room. The nurses can be pretty scary, they’ll sort them out incredibly fast
- One of the biggest problems in hospitals is the amount of noise – everyone wants to keep patients happy, pain-free and undisturbed. If, and only if, you are in excruciating, having-a-baby, car crash, burn victim, pain, and no one is answering the call bell after what seems like a year, start screaming your head off. Be careful with this one though, it can VERY QUICKLY turn into a boy-who-cried-wolf situation.
For more info on talking to and dealing with the dreaded ‘other people’, you can read my post here.