Does the prefix “Doctor” intimidate you? When I practiced medicine, I was surprised to hear patients say that I was intimidating. I always dressed casually, wearing a polo shirt and jeans a few days a week. Most of the time, I sat when I talked with you and I worked hard at breaking the 11 second phenomena. Nonetheless, patients were intimidated by my title.
We’ve established that listening is a critical characteristic of an excellent doctor. We’ve also established that most doctors, while taking a patient’s history, will interrupt their patient within 11 – 15 seconds after their patient starts to talk. So, what can you do?
The obvious answer is to politely interrupt your doc’s interruption by saying, “Doc, I know you have patients waiting and calls to make but there are more pertinent facts I need to share with you.” At that point, you need to launch into the rest of your story. Writing out your story in advance allows you to organize it into a relevant, understandable presentation. Organizing it in advance also allows you to prioritize your needs and saves time.
I want you to make your story into a presentation lasting no more then 3-4 minutes and highlighting the two most important features of your illness. Sounds good to you? Sounds easy? It’s not if you find the letters, “M.D.”, intimidating. Your doctor is there to meet your needs. He/she are humans! They eat, piss and crap the same as you. If they intimidate you, imagine your doc sitting on your couch in PJs eating popcorn and watching TV. I bet that will work.
At first, your doc may appear a little incredulous or annoyed when you interrupt him/her. Hand the doc a copy of your presentation, apologize and tell the doc you need “x” minutes to finish relating important facts about yourself. Actually, you’ll be teaching the importance of listening to your doc much the was my wife trained me.
One of two things will happen. Either your doc will learn to listen to you without interruption or you’ll need to get a new physician. You will learn to prep for your visit, laying out the facts as you see them.
Your relationship with your docs should be optimized over time such that both you and your physician learn how to effectively communicate. In time, your feelings of intimidation should dissipate and be replaced by mutual respect.
Tomorrow, we’ll review the importance of mutual respect and we’ll add respect to the list of attributes that make a doctor exceptional.
Here’s your joke:
What is mutual understanding?
Wife: I love you.
Husband: How much money do you need?
Husband: I love you. Wife: Not now, the children are still awake.