Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Perfect Patient

Category: General

What qualities do doctors think make up "the perfect patient?" Here's a list of things I bet most doctors would love for their patients to do. Patients should:
  1. Wait patiently for their turn in the waiting room - even if their appointment is at 1:00 p.m. and they don't even get to have their vitals taken by the nurse until 4:00 p.m.
  2. Always be graciously understanding and accepting when they are informed by the doctor's office that their appointment has been cancelled and rescheduled. They shouldn't even be irritated just because they made arrangements all around that appointment for work, babysitting, etc.
  3. Be perfectly compliant in every way. If they need to lose 20 pounds, patients need to immediately set up an intense jogging regimen and eat only rabbit food, devoting all their concentration and energy on losing those 20 pounds. They also need to take all medicine prescribed whether it "agrees" with them or not. They should eagerly schedule themselves for all manner of yucky, invasive preventative screening exams such as yearly prostate checks, Pap smears, and colonoscopies.
  4. Be educated and proactive. All patients should at least know what medicines their on, know their dose and frequency, why they're on the medicines and know the basics of all their disease processes. Patients should always know when their most recent tests were performed and what the results were, e.g. mammagrams, stress tests, etc.
  5. Be uneducated and unproactive. Patients need not question everything. They need to shut up and do what they're told all the time. Doctors do not have time to listen to patients go on and on about the side effects of whatever medicine that they printed off Google and brought to the office with them.
  6. Be silent and agreeable when the doctor gives a vague rambling explanation or an explanation filled with fancy medical mumbo jumbo or no explanation at all for anything.

In going through clinical rotations, even medical students come to have unfair expectations of patients. What do we want? Do we want them to shut up, sit down, and do what they're told? That may be nice in a way, but isn't it frustrating sometimes when patients have no idea why you're doing what you're doing, and don't even know why they have to take the medicines they do? And don't care? Don't you want your patient to be at least a little more educated than that? But see, that's no good either, because then they ask too many annoying questions we supposedly don't have time to answer. And really, why can't patients understand that we're asking them to quit smoking for their own good? Don't they know anything? Never mind the fact that we ourselves are waddling down the hall, 20-50 pounds overweight, unable to stop eating ice cream and tsk tsking our patients who can't quit (fill in the blank).

Yes, patients, a doctor's expectation of you can be quite unfair, but there's a flip side to everything. Stay tuned for the next post entitled, "The Perfect Doctor."

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