Friday, May 13, 2016

Patients Are In My Mind and My Heart. #DoctorsDoCare

Physicians today are not held in the same high esteem as they used to be.  We are often portrayed as callous, intolerant, clutch-fisted, know-it-alls who schedule patients around our daily golf game.  (For the record, I do not play golf.)  Physicians are not skilled enough at public relations.  A few weeks ago, I got a brief glimpse of how people react when we reveal our warm and fuzzy side unexpectedly.

We are human beings; mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters.  Like everyone else, we have bills to pay for homes, cars, and endless student loan debt.  Our days are stressful as we constantly juggle to keep up with the demands of life.  This should sound familiar to any adult reading this article. 

Recently, my husband and I attended an informational school meeting and ran into a mother whose children I see in my clinic.  She brought her 5 month old twins in a double stroller and wheeled it to the back of the room.  Just as the meeting began, the twins started fussing.  She picked one up and I walked toward her gesturing that I could hold the other baby.  She smiled, handed him over, and I enjoyed holding and nuzzling him throughout the one hour meeting. 

He cried here and there but overall consoled well in my arms.  About halfway through, he was talking and cooing at me, which melted my heart.  I love babies and their smell, smiles, and giggles; I treasured my time with this beautiful boy.  Seeing patients in public allows me a glimpse into their reality outside my office walls. 

As the meeting drew to a close, the learning specialist at the school approached us.  She stopped to talk with mom, admired her son, and asked how old he was.  Then she turned to me and inquired as to the age of my child?  I laughed and said, “They are the same age; they are twins.”  She looked surprised and confused (obviously she did not witness the hand-off.) 

The more interesting part occurred when mom said, “Yes, they are twins.  She is my pediatrician.”  The learning specialist was completely aghast, stunned, and speechless; her mouth dropped open in shock.  As she recovered, she said “Oh my word.  Really? (No lady.  We play this joke all the time on strangers.)  Are you serious?”  Clearly, she did not know what to say about this unexpected situation. 

Why is it unusual for a pediatrician to hold a little patient in public for a spell?  In actuality, it is probably not that rare, but the public perception of physicians makes it seem that way.  I love seeing my patients outside of my office.  She probably believed I was one of those nutty, hippy physicians… the kind that have conversations and close relationships with their patients. 

There is nothing extraordinary about this story other than it made me realize we need to be better at public relations.  When we establish connections with families we care for, those stories should be publicized.  I love my profession and am proud of what I do, and who I am.   

The “practice” of medicine can be extremely challenging.  We give patients our very best every day.  Doctors do care, but the human body manifests disease is very different ways.  No two patients are exactly alike (even twins), and sometimes we will stumble along the way as we try to solve your health dilemma. We need to be patient with one another and work together.

The public should know more about what goes on in the minds and hearts of physicians.  Please share this piece and start a “Doctors Do Care” Challenge.  If you are a physician, write a story about a patient who changed your life.  If you are a patient and a physician has improved your life in some way, please share your story with the same hashtag.  #doctorsdocare.   

The physician-patient relationship is and will always be the most powerful therapeutic force in medicine.  It is time we collectively harness it, document it, and start a movement.  #doctorsdocare.  I know there are many stories to be told and look forward to hearing them.  #medicinematters  #mydocrocks 

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