Monday, February 18, 2008

The most important thing

I've learned a lot from Henry's oncologist.

He's young, quite young. Older in years than I, but very fresh out of training. His communication skills are those of a much more experienced physician, and I would do well to pick up a few things from him. He excels at answering questions, even silly ones, in a way that is very validating.

I think about the way that I answer some of my patients' questions. Am I dismissive? Trite? Sarcastic? Insulting? I'm sure I've been all of those things at times, albeit unintentionally. This is an area I hope to work on.

He also spends huge, superdoctor amounts of time with my husband and I. Some days he just sits silently in the hospital room with us to give our brains time to dredge up all of the questions that swirl around in the wee hours of the morning or the long drives back and forth from the hospital. And after we think of them all he sits longer, just to make sure.

Once I said to him, "You make us feel like Henry is the only thing you have to do."

"No", he said, "only the most important thing."

That scores big points with a mom.

And also started me thinking about my own practice.

Do my patients feel like they're my most important thing to do? A lot of them apologize for taking up my time, or start a sentence by saying "I know you're really busy...". Do I come across as too busy to be bothered, or too busy to care?

This bothered me for a while. I've decided that seeing 5 URIs in an hour doesn't exactly require the gravity of concern that a brain tumor does. Perhaps my patients shouldn't feel like a visit for that rash-that-was-there-yesterday-but-now-I-can't-see-it or the vomited-for-three-days-can-I-have-a-work-note is the most important thing I'll do all day. But for those there to discuss a turn in health, a severe depression, or suspicion of a child's developmental delay should feel like I care, and that I'll take all the time they need.


rlbates said...

I'm glad Henry has such a good doctor. I, also, think that because you are concerned enough to worry about the issue in your practice, with your patients, that they have a good doctor.

SOCKS said...

Well said RLBATES - I have nothing to add but an affirming nod.

Rob said...

Well said. I couldn't agree more. Never make people feel dumb, no matter how trivial their worries seem. I think this is the mark of a really good physician.

I have been lurking for a while and always value what you (and your husband) write. You are not just doing this for your own therapy (or catharsis), but we benefit greatly from it. Keep it up!

Doctor David said...

Isn't it cool how we all learn from each other?

I'm glad I found your blog. I'm sorry you'll be gone for a couple of months. I hope you come back to it, because I look forward to what you have to say.