Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Being on the other side

Almost everyday for the past 9 years, I have worn a stethoscope around my neck, listening to patients complain about their bodies, what hurts, what doesn't work and then treating them as best I can with my exam, training, experience and what is available to me.  Over the years, at times I have found it frustrating, when patients don't trust me and my assessment of their illness, when they demand a certain test, or when they keep coming back for the same complaint over and over again, despite having done everything I can do to reassure them they are okay.  As their doctor, at the end of the interaction, I still get to do what is best for them and treat them the best I can.     
For a week that changed, when I accompanied my colleagues and friends - the McCoys to Brisbane for a medical evaluation.  I was no longer the one wearing the stethoscope, I was no longer the one knowing all that was happening, what test was ordered, what wasn't, when something was going to happen, how things worked in the Australian medical system, etc.  I no longer was in control and found it frustrating.  Frustrating being on the other side not feeling like you are being heard, not feeling like the doctors were understanding what we were trying to communicate, what was our biggest concern, that we were just another patient and not important to them. 
Since I have been back, I have tried to remember what it was like on the other side.  What it is like when you aren't in control, when your questions and concerns aren't fully answered, when you don't feel like you have been heard, etc.  I have tried to be more compassionate, listen a little longer and take more time to explain what is going on with the patient.  Being on the other side helped to remind me what it is like for the anxious patients and their family members sitting on the bench in my exam room, or in the ER waiting to be seen.  I hope it stays with me a while.