It’s been interesting to deal with someone with a chronic illness, because that’s when you really discover the strength and ability of your doctor. When I was growing up, I would rarely challenge a teacher. I assumed they had all the right answers – they were in charge of our classroom for a reason – right? Well the relationship we have with doctors is even more one-sided. If you’ve ever tried challenging a doctor over a diagnosis, over a test result, or even asked for a second opinion, you know that it is perceived as a personal attack by many well-meaning, talented doctors. Obviously there is a big part of medical education that is missing – something that goes far beyond bedside manner and caring concern. There is a bravado tied to the profession, and it’s harming patients.
What’s odd is that I would never assume that my idea is the only idea, that my assessment of the situation is always 100% right, or that everyone else involved with the decision doesn’t have an equally valid view. However, many doctors seem uncomfortable when you challenge them and frequently resort to defending their ideas with a simple, “Because I said so”. The patient becomes nothing more than a chastised child. The care you get from doctors depends on so many factors that have nothing at all to do with their training as medical wizards. Can you talk to them, but more importantly are they really listening to you? Can they think outside the illness “box”? Can they empathize, even a little, with the pain, fear and concerns about their patient?
Medicine is an art, based on a science. The care you get is really more dependent on the talent of your physician as an “artist” of medicine, then on the technical expertise they gained in school, but it is also dependent on their ability as a human. Their ability to mix empathy with an inquisitive nature will often make them among the best in their field.