I came across an old article about a doctor I knew a looooong time ago. The piece lauded him as a brilliant saint. Before I launch into how problematic this was, I’ll say this: I, in my position as a nurse, had my “professional face” and my “Becky is not on duty right now” face. We all do on a daily basis, obviously.
During nursing school and in my working years, I met many healthcare workers who spoke one way (read: kindly) to patients and another way (read: horribly) to hospital staff. That always bothered me, the extremes to which the pendulum swung. Then, after my diagnoses, I started meeting healthcare professionals who spoke down to their patients as well. That was an eye opener.
Although I met the article doc as a patient, I knew of their reputation as a brilliant specialist when I was still working. Our interaction was brief but demeaning.
I was sent to him as a second, (maybe third?) opinion before my own doctor (at the time) would begin certain procedures. Sitting in his office, walls covered – and I mean covered – with pictures of the doc posed with athletes and celebrities he’d treated was overwhelming. It was simultaneously encouraging and intimidating.
He breezed in and looked at the notes my doc had sent over. Then he said, “I’ve healed hundreds of first class athletes, Olympic athletes….. I could do something for you.” You’re going to read that as a good thing. It would have been, of course. But his tone – and the wave of his hand in my direction as he read my chart – was as if working on a non-athlete/non-superstar would be a waste of his valuable time, but he could do it.
We left the office. We both heard the same implication. Over the years, I’ve seen many sports medicine folks (docs and physical therapists) who said the exact same thing. Obviously, their time is valuable. But my life and well being are just as valuable as their famed, Olympic athlete patients.
It was an off-handed comment not meant to insult me, obviously. But it struck a cord, especially in the depressed state I was in at the time. I was (am) a never-going-to-be-cured patient whose body will only get to a certain level. I’m not a celebrity. I’ll never end up on the wall of fame. But that doesn’t make me less than.
When I was working in a private practice, we had a few consistently rude patients, only to the staff though. One of them always snapped her fingers and addressed me as “you.” We were instructed to disregard it. One afternoon, I’d finally reached my limit. I pulled her aside and said, “In the future, I would like to be addressed by my name. I’m not a dog and I will not answer either to ‘you’ or by finger snaps.” She was stunned. My boss was horrified and livid. But the woman apologized and we never had an issue again. She said she respected me for speaking up. I shouldn’t have had to, but there we go. It was one of the only times I took off my nurse mask. Otherwise, I was constantly pleasant and helpful, no matter how patients (or coworkers) interacted with me.
In a semi-connected sidebar, I was recently telling my husband and daughter how much I enjoyed when new residents started on the postpartum floor. It gave me the opportunity to show them how to interact with staff and patients. And how much better it would be for everyone if they weren’t demanding and rude to the nurses, nursing assistants, housekeeping – everyone! Treat the staff with respect. Treat patients kindly and like people, not medical mannequins that can be poked and grabbed at will. It was my brief but hopeful attempt to get them to be better practitioners. One of them said something to the effect of, “it doesn’t matter how I ask, as long as it gets done.” We had a long, interesting conversation about how wrong he was. LOL. It does matter.
And – back to my own patient experience – while I appreciate and absolutely respect the years of hard work someone puts in to make people’s lives better/longer/healthier, I don’t respect treating super athletes one way and average, every day people another. It’s kind of gross, in my opinion.
Maybe I’ve been at this too long. Maybe – after seeing the walls of so many doctors – I resent the fact that, but for a certain podiatrist who didn’t believe me, my life could have been very different. I would never have been an athlete, I know that much. But maybe I’d still be working, more active, stronger. I’ll never know.
This one is a ramble, I’m sorry. But seeing someone framed a certain way when I had a completely different experience with them struck a nerve.
As patients, we’re our own advocates. We have to defend ourselves on so many fronts. Getting medications, getting seen and heard. Finding doctors who listen. Dealing with insurance companies. Trying to get insured. Being a patient is it’s own full time job. And some of us are trying to actually work full time.
Treat people with dignity. I don’t care who it is or what they do. I don’t care how they act. Treat everyone with kindness. You don’t know what they’re dealing with, but it doesn’t matter. Each interaction we have sets the stage for the next person we (or they) meet. And so on and so on. Each moment effects the next and the next.
That’s enough of that. Take care of yourselves and know that I’m sending good wishes out for all of you. ❤️
Peace and painlessness,
#thisiswhatsicklookslike #crps #rsd #arachnoiditis #bekind