They don’t really teach you how to be a doctor in medical school. True we get training on diseases, and how to identify them, how to treat them even. We even learn to understand epidemiology of disease and prognosis and we think we sound smart when we can rattle of the current statistics of survival, or normal lab values. But you know they don’t teach you, how real death can be. What failure feels like and now matter how hard you try, there will be times you will fail. Patients will not get better. They will die at some point. Yo will have angry patients and in spite of your best efforts sometimes people will be upset. They don’t tell you about this human element in medicine. However most of all they don’t tell how to be a patient.
I wont deny it, it is difficult to be on the other side. Whether you are the patient or a family member. Being at the receiving end is a challenge in itself. I don’t like walking into a doctor’s office and letting them know I have been to medical school myself. I feel that takes away from my prerogative to be a normal patient. I don’t like the “you would know this better”. I may understand things better but not necessarily know it better. The last few years I have been training to be a very specific type of physician. Every other field is becoming a blur. So no I don’t like to tell them.
That needle is not a small pinch like we have come to tell the patients. It isn’t so much the needle piercing, but the tourniquet, the looking for the vein, the three too many vials that need to be filled but more importantly the anticipation is what is scary. How is all that to be allayed by equating it to a small pinch.
I underwent my first EKG/ECG a few months ago. It was part of a cough work up. In my mind I knew it was a completely useless exercise but I didn’t want to challenge my physician. Perhaps the futility of the test was weighing in on me, but I found it rather invasive. I was undressed and manhandled without warning. I know nothing done was inappropriate. But I got no warning. I was left amused. I am sure I have done the same to another unsuspecting patient.
I don’t think you need to have cancer to understand what your patients are going through, but I do think a little sensitivity would go a long way.