There is a healthcare crisis in America. No, I am not referencing Obamacare or associated costs. I am troubled by the lack of genuine care and concern for the wellbeing of other humans. HealthCARE in the title itself insinuates the field cares about health. Whose health? The health of the patient, right?
I have had the pleasure of treatment by caring, patient, curious, driven providers. My family practice doctor is by far one of the best healthcare professionals I have ever found. He takes his time with each patient and seeks to understand their personal needs.
I have also suffered at the mercy of uncaring, unremarkable, impatient providers that lack the ability to listen. Unfortunately, I have experienced more of the latter.
In my twenties, I battled medical issues that are not typical in young adults. At twenty-seven I began to suffer from severe lower back pain and at twenty-nine I fought cancer twice, two different types.
I suffered for years with debilitating lower back pain, the kind of pain that kept me bent over. Rounds of steroids, muscle relaxers, and anti-inflammatory medication would temporarily allow me to straighten up. Then I would walk too far, bend too much and aggravate the wound keeping me bent over again. I saw a chiropractor for years getting regular adjustments, tried massage therapy, completed several rounds of physical therapy, but nothing kept me standing straight for long. Finally, after years of going to the doctor every few months, an MRI was ordered and the results showed two herniated discs compressing my spine. The discs had imploded within my spinal column causing the compression to create unusual symptoms. The atypical presentation is what lead to a delayed diagnosis.
Surgery took care of the herniation, but the damage to my spine had been done resulting in a chronic, lifelong issue: Degenerative Disc disease. Within the notes from my operation, the surgeon remarked at the size of the herniation measuring in cm. Herniated discs are typically measured in mm.
It was through the years of suffering from my back that I learned I would need to advocate for myself moving forward. I could not rely solely on doctors to give me answers. I would need to research my symptoms, diagnosis, investigate my insurance procedures, and ask lots of questions.
Soon after my back surgery, I was diagnosed with cancer. I researched everything I could find on the subject, met with doctors, nurses, holistic practitioners, and developed my own plan for treatment. My oncologist, OBGYN, holistic doctor, and dietician worked together, with me as the team coach. I implemented what seemed like sound advice and requested alternatives for anything I found fault with. It was a combined treatment of both conventional and alternative remedies that won my battle with cancer.
The painful and delayed treatment for my back taught me lessons about the healthcare industry that I believe saved my life. I may suffer from back pain flare ups, but I am alive and in my mind, that is a reasonable price to pay.
Qualities of good doctors, nurses, healthcare team members:
- Ask questions and then they wait and LISTEN to the answer. The excellent ones will ask more questions based on the answers you just gave. Do not be alarmed if you have never experienced this, it is RARE.
- They are patient and kind waiting for you to gather your thoughts.
- Happily greet you at repeat visits for recurrent issues.
- They help you sift through all the medical research you have done on your own online (Web MD® and Google!®)
- They smile and reassure you that you are not, in fact, You are right to be concerned about your body when it is not acting as it should.
- They answer all of your questions, provide additional information and resources.
- You leave the appointment feeling better, relieved, hopeful.
Warning signs that you may want to find another provider:
- Begrudgingly greet you at the window/door/office as though you are a nuisance.
- Ask the required questions while looking at you blankly or refusing to maintain eye contact.
- Rush through your appointment, trying to get it done. The same appointment that you have been waiting on for weeks, carefully preparing for (researching/tracking your symptoms, writing down questions).
- You leave the appointment full of doubt, fear, and anxiety, worse for coming.
If you experience a conversation like the one below, find another provider immediately:
Doctor: “Our next step is to try injections.”
Patient: “I read the injections were not recommended for those who have undergone surgery in the area of the injection sites.”
Doctor: “Oh, you had surgery?”
Patient: (In a voice as kind and nonjudgmental as I could conjure) “Yes, I listed that on my intake forms and we discussed the surgery at my last visit.”
Doctor: “When was the surgery and what exactly did you have done?”
Patient: (Makes mental note that this doctor clearly does not have her best interest in mind. Understands his suggestions cannot be trusted and should not return to this office.)
Has it really come to this? A practice must push through so many patients a day to cover the overhead, sacrificing the personal connection and quality with patients? I understand the practice is a business, the providers have chosen healthcare as their way to earn a living. I further understand that overhead is extremely high with the cost of malpractice insurance and staff needed to ensure all government regulations are satisfied. Healthcare providers are only human, they make mistakes, they have bad days. This is to be expected; however, this should be the exception and not the rule. While I, the patient, try to understand all this about my provider, could they please try to empathize with me? Try to see me as a person, as a mom with two kids and a husband who rely on me. As an employee who takes great pride in my work, as a broken human in need of help, their help.
Did you gain value from these words? Subscribe and I will email you the stories as soon as they are published. Do you think this story could help anyone you know? If so, please share on social media, by email, or word of mouth.