I had surgery in April. On Wednesday I went back to my surgeon to find out why I’m still in pain in late June. While I’m grateful that it’s nothing sinister, I’ve learnt that doctors who are skilled at operations aren’t always the best communicators. Maybe they could learn these kinds of skills at University.
Dear medical schools what teach mere mortals to become doctor gurus:
Is there a class in communication, bedside manner, and answering patient questions without attitude during the long years of a medical degree? Is there one lesson about asking your patient what they actually do at work? Is there a sentence in any of the science books about mentioning to your patient that their surgery and what a doctor has prescribed may affect their ability to carry out their job or basic tasks like not passing out behind the wheel?
I have low blood pressure. It’s a hereditary condition, my grandpa had it, my mum has it and I’ve been asked numerous times by medical people if I’m a marathon runner (not a humble brag, well maybe a bit) because my blood pressure is so low. Perhaps telling me that the local anaesthetic cream I’ve been using BEFORE work (to get through work without scratching my bum incessantly) will lower my bloody pressure to the point that I may faint and get headaches; would have been helpful before I drove for over an hour, worked in emergency beside stressed families and tried to be cheerful. Telling me only to use it before bed would have assisted me to get through April and May lying down. By mid June not so much.
I have developed newfound respect for people who live with chronic pain and life changing health issues. I don’t think I’m mentally strong enough to deal with a medical condition for years. When I’m a patient, I can feel weak, vulnerable and anxious; so I forget to ask vital questions, like what are the side effects of my medication, and whether I should be worried, and can I wash my pills down with gin and tonic. Yes I can be neurotic and babble on at length (that’s also hereditary), but no one would be harmed by a few well-timed reassuring words from my surgeon. I’ve forgotten how to play the three chords I used to know on my ukulele for years, so how about you ask me if you need to repeat anything?
How about medical schools teach doctors not to rush patients out the door? Doctor I’m paying for your time so how about you give me a teensy bit of it? I was only asking for a few more minutes to answer a few pressing concerns. Like why is my wound healing so slowly and can I use champagne to stop the muscle spasms and why can’t I find a hunk to give me a free daily massage with oil?
I don’t want to leave my physician’s office with a list of unanswered questions that pop into my scatter brain at 3am, I need to save head space for remembering the real names of dead celebrities. Doctors can you please use a checklist for idiots like me? It may help your receptionist/gatekeeper later because she (99% of the time they’re female) won’t be asked silly questions and you may also become a deity worshipped by your patients.
Thank your for your time. One question for you: Are you practising to be a doctor or has your real recital started?
Recently I had surgery (not plastic) requiring a general anaesthetic and one morning I woke up with aches and pains. My doctor wasn’t available so I rang my local hospital emergency department and I was put through to a woman who said,
“We can’t really give advice over the phone so you can come in or see your doctor, or I can put you through to the medical advice line. Which would you like?”
I said to her, “What is the medical advice line, is that recorded information, or do I speak to a doctor?”
And she said, “I don’t know, I’ve never rung them.”
I said, “What?” and she repeated, “I don’t know, I haven’t spoken to them.”
Lady, you’re working in customer service at a major hospital, perhaps with sick and vulnerable customers; surely it would be helpful if you knew some details about the advice line?
“What do you want?”
I was so furious I hung up on her. I couldn’t believe she would say that to someone so obviously seeking help. I was in pain but lucid and close to the hospital, what if someone who is very distressed rings her and she says that?
When I calmed down I rang back and spoke to a different operator who put me straight through to a Health Direct registered nurse. We spoke for 14 minutes, she opened a file, gave me great advice and took all my details.
Why was the first one allowed anywhere near the phone? What annoys me most is that she was as clueless as Tony Robbins when talking about the MeToo movement.
Who do I complain to? There is probably only one poor woman answering the phones because her colleagues have been made redundant, and clueless lady was probably just an executive with no real hospital experience who happened to be walking past a ringing phone at the time. Do I call an ombudsman? The hospital chief executive? The local paper? Or just whinge about it on social media?
If I was paranoid I’d think the state government were trying to run our health care system into the ground, strip our services to bare bones, so idiot pollies can privatise our hospitals. Where can we find politicians with vision? The ones we’ve got are spineless. I wish I could say it is going tibia okay.