Musings of a Dinosaur

A Family Doctor in solo private practice; I may be going the way of the dinosaur, but I'm not dead yet.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

In Which I Discover That I May, in Fact, be (Gasp!) Human

Got a phone call from a long-time patient the other day telling me that she was switching doctors. Something had been bothering her -- that she never told me about -- that she really needed to get taken care of, so she was switching.

Believe it or not, this kind of nonsense happens all the time. People switch doctors at the drop of a hat. Whether the office location or hours aren't convenient, or their insurance changes to a plan they don't think I participate in (though I probably do), or I didn't call them back when they paged me after hours (leaving a message on the regular message line instead of the default emergency line, and not leaving a phone number), or whatever. This is not at all uncommon, and it doesn't bother me a bit.

That's what I tell myself.

That's what I try to keep telling myself again and again as I drive home, mulling over the call in my mind. "What, am I supposed to be a mind reader now?" I ask myself. Of course not. I know that it's just one of those things. It happens all the time, and I tell myself it doesn't bother me a bit.

Of course it does. A bit.

A little bit.

I also know from experience that although there's a little heaviness to my step for the rest of today, once I sleep on it I will shake it off. These things are always better the next day.

I decide not to say anything to Darling Spouse. After all, I've already told myself everything that can be said. DS isn't going to say anything different, so what's the point?

It turns out that marriage doesn't work that way.

"How was your day?" comes the regular question.

I sigh a little as I answer, "A long-time patient switched doctors because I didn't take care of a problem she never told me about."

"What, are you supposed to be a mind reader now?"

Although they are, in fact, exactly the same words I have already said to myself (several times), just hearing them out loud is startlingly soothing. I have no idea if hearing it through my ears instead of just in my imagination is what makes it so different, or if it's the validation of another person that no, I don't really have to be a mind reader; either way, I feel my mood lift immediately.

Wow. So this is what this feels like. Accepting the comfort and empathy that comes from hearing something I already know. I dole it out all day long, all the while telling myself I don't need it. Maybe I don't need it, but it sure feels good.

I may be a dinosaur, but I guess I'm human after all.

(Thanks, DS.)


At Wed Jun 24, 12:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Consider yourself lucky and move on. At least that patient didn't sue you over something she never told you about (but now claims she did).

At Wed Jun 24, 01:07:00 PM, Anonymous Celeste said...

In a single sentence, you went from being rationalizing somebody's bad behavior towards you, to being defended. It's a comfort not to face these things alone.

I just wonder what possessed her not to speak up.

At Wed Jun 24, 03:34:00 PM, Blogger ShrinkingDoc said...

Glad she helped you let go of that.

It's amazing what a small gesture or a few words can do.

I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop mulling some pretty heavy shit this morning. A woman walked in and smiled at me. I smiled back. I felt immediately better.

Then she asked if I was Chris--I'm not--she was looking for someone else and that's why she'd smiled. It didn't matter. That smile had still helped.

Thanks for the kind words yesterday, Dino. I'm less insane today. And I told him to throw his toothbrush away (my cleaning woman asked me which toothbrush she should use to clean the toilet with and then she used it to do so). I'm filing for divorce, but I think it can be amicable. More money for us to split, less for the lawyers. Door shutting, window opening.

At Wed Jun 24, 03:41:00 PM, Anonymous tom said...

move on-perhaps she was tired of being reminded of any or all of the following:
*Smoking is killing you
*There is a direct relationship between weight and health
*Exercise is not a brisk walk to the freezer
*There is a reason I ask you to take the pills as prescribed
*I cannot make your spouce be nice to you

At Wed Jun 24, 04:13:00 PM, Blogger #1 Dinosaur said...

Tom, I think you're confusing me with this guy.

HugeMD: Email me.

At Wed Jun 24, 10:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And like the guy in "Kill As FEw Patients as Possible" says, she stole all your good waiting room magazines anyway.

At Wed Jun 24, 11:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If she couldn't talk to you about the issue, then she probably made a good decision for herself. It's not about you, but about who she thinks she can communicate with. (Even though she may have put it in terms that made it sound like she thought it was your fault, if that makes sense?)

At Thu Jun 25, 07:48:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I've only change doctors when they've screwed up bad enough to make my life unpleasant. Last time was that the office became more of a internship stop than a place to get treatment (hadn't managed to see a real doctor for months). After three months of a misdiagnosed sinus infection (was always told it's just allergies), I was done.

Love my current doctor, and the practice. Dad started it, daughter is following in his footsteps, and Mom is the head nurse. My view of what a family practice should be... and they are all willing to kick my butt when I need it.

At Thu Jun 25, 10:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am slowly learning how to handle this same thing - each time I hear of a patient switching to one of my partners, it always does me in for the day. But, you are so right, once I get home and verbalize it to my husband - he usually also calms me in the same way. So glad but I still so hate those moments!

At Sat Jul 04, 12:12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a little examination of self is good in such circumstances. Maybe she didn't tell you because she didn't think she could approach you on the subject. Patients think a lot of things and sometimes draw incorrect conclusions about how a physician will respond, but nevertheless, I think you come across as unapproachable in some ways.

At Sun Jul 19, 02:47:00 PM, Blogger T. said...

I SO needed this post right now. Thank you for sharing it! It so captured how I feel when I have days like that, and how my husband can comfort me thought I've already gone through the conversation in my head.


Post a Comment

<< Home