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Friday, April 15, 2011

Empathetic Mom meets Unempathetic Doctor

         I had to go to the doctor since I was having some symptoms that were concerning.  I haven't loved the doctor that I have been seeing, but she's been good enough, knows me, knows my history, delivered my daughter and so, I didn't think of going to someone else for the issues.  I saw her about a week ago and she ran some tests.

This past Tuesday, while I was at work, I received the following voicemail message:

"Hi, this is Eileen from Dr. Z's office. She would like to speak with you.  She's leaving the office for the day and won't be able to speak with you tomorrow because she is in surgery, so please give us a call after 9am on Thursday.  She would like to speak with you directly."

My stomach dropped.  I was overwhelmed with fear, did I need to make plans, was I going to miss seeing my little girl grow up?  I know this sounds extreme, but I went there.  And then, I just felt anger.  I was outraged.  Who leaves a message like that and isn't available to talk?   She knew I was concerned about my symptoms because I had seen her already five months ago for the same ones that had not improved and now I had others.  She delivered my baby, she was a Mom too.  WTF?

I'm sorry, don't you treat PEOPLE who have EMOTIONS?  Did you miss the course on empathy?   

After speaking with her and finding out that I am ok, I tried to understand how she thought having her receptionist leave that voicemail could be helpful to me.  I came to the conclusion that it had nothing to do with me.  It had everything to do with her.  I was a name that had to be crossed off on her list, the call was made, message left, and now it was documented.  Check, check check.  She also seemed confused about who I actually was, referencing that I am still breastfeeding, which I'm not and haven't been since November.  Then I considered that she KNEW the news was not life threatening, and therefore, she didn't think twice about the message that would be left.  I don't think she ever once considered how that message might effect me, I didn't know what she DID.

All of this prompted me to do a little research about the topic of medical doctors and empathy and not surprisingly, there are many articles addressing the issue, namely the lack of empathy amongst these professionals.  Check out the link I chose, it cites a study that is referenced in many of the other pieces I found which analyzes 20 audio tapes between patients and their doctor.  It's not very encouraging.

Speak up. If you have a complaint, access the patient relations part of whatever hospital or practice you receive services.  Things won't get better if concerns are not voiced in an effective and appropriate manner.       

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