Maybe it’s just me, but the practice of medicine is/should be centred around patients. Why do I say this I see your mind box confusingly thinking? Well, one of the surgeons I had the pleasure of joining for consults forced me to remind myself of why I entered the profession.
When sent to shadow a doctor or specialist, students normally look to achieve two outcomes; one is clinically related and the other professional. The clinically related aspect of being with a mentor is the more self-explanatory. Students look to learn about the kind of work doctors engage in, the type of knowledge required to practice in that specific area and to reinforce their own knowledge in the specialty.
The professional related outcome is the more difficult to implement, describe or practice. As students, we look to observe the way mentors treat and interact with patients, as well as the manner in which they question, examine or acquire information. Much of this can be summarised by an often overused term; soft skills. This is the nuance that can be the difference between a non-compliant, aggressive patient response and a more smooth-sailing and beneficial consultation.
Why the whole charade about the details of shadowing? You’re now placed in prime position to understand the frustration of the following situation. While sitting in on these consults with my mentor, he had great clinical knowledge and really knew his stuff. However, his demeanour and overall mindset towards patients was quite concerning. He would finish what seemed like a normal consult to me, and come back to complain how rude the patient had been.
Seeing the confusion on my face, he would begin to elaborate, ‘Did you see how unappreciative they were? Unbelievable’ or ‘We really don’t get the respect we deserve, in other places the doctors word goes unquestioned, who do they think they are?’ or ‘They just don’t get it, they really don’t listen it’s so frustrating’. There are more along the same line, but I think you get the jist.
Here is poor old me, absolutely horrified that this guy in front of me is saying a whole lot of crap I can’t stomach to just ‘let slide’. I somehow managed to brush him off till his tirade was done and he’d had enough of either quizzing me about anatomy or being livid with the patient’s lack of respect.
I think it’s worthwhile to note that when it came to the way he treated me, it’s hard to believe but he was remarkably forthcoming and willing to assist. I still can’t quite work out why he opted for a passive-aggressive approach when with patients.
I think it goes without saying, despite this being quite a stereotypical case of what I’ve often heard called ‘arrogant doctor syndrome’ it is by far an exception to the rule. The vast majority of doctors don’t have a ‘chip on their shoulder’ and feel the need to constantly prove a point. Patients are their number one priority and come down on us as students, if we fail to keep that at the forefront of our minds. Some may see it as harsh, I see it as protecting the core of medicine and maintaining it’s noble purpose.
Despite his often lack of concern, I find there’s one of two ways you can think about what I’ve just explained. You can either look at it from an elitist point of view and begin to think about how you really do deserve to be treated better, or as a lesson for what not to do when you begin practicing yourself. The choice is yours