Julia’s Rules for Medical Professionals

by J on January 28, 2010

Simon and I have both had more than an average number of medical appointments in the last eighteen months. Between pre-natal visits, gastroenterology, well-baby checks, and the cleft-palate team, I would say we’ve seen our fair share of medical professionals. Many times (but not all — we have some fantastic providers), I leave an appointment feeling vaguely irritated, but have had trouble putting my finger on why. It’s taken me eighteen months to figure out that it’s because one of the four following rules has been broken. (But now that I know why things bug me, I can let them go more easily, at least in theory.)

1. Introduce yourself.
It takes about five seconds, tops. It’s something our culture thinks is polite. Are you going to touch me or my child? When all is going well, only people I know do that, so it would be nice if I knew your name.

2. Read the chart.
It will save me from having to repeat myself. It will make you look like a genius with a really good memory. It says “I care.” Asking someone for information on their chart looks lazy.

3. Take two minutes to determine how smart I am.
This will keep you from wasting your time explaining things I already know or things I have no chance of understanding. A good way to do this is to ask what I do professionally. From this you can discern my general level of education and my familiarity with topics we are going to discuss. High school science teacher? Can probably read graphs and very likely knows some basic anatomy vocabulary.

4. I should leave feeling as though I’m doing something right.
Because if all I get is messages about how I need to change what I’m doing, it’s depressing, and doesn’t empower me to change anything. Likewise, leaving with a list of things I need to do (say, for my child) is overwhelming if I don’t feel like what I’ve been doing is adequate. Now, maybe it hasn’t been, but if you can find one tiny thing to affirm, I have somewhere to start.

The next step is learning how to firmly and courteously assert myself when I get irritated. Saying “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name…” or “Hmm, I think that’s in my chart,” in my head is one thing, but actually saying it to a person is quite another.

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