Doing It Wrong

I’ve spent a lot of blog space talking about relationships and the importance of communicating clearly. How you have to give a damn about your client to make them feel cared for.  Here’s a perfect example of  what happens when you don’t pay attention to your client, when you are focusing on results and not relationships.

It was time for my yearly physical. In my coverage plan, the yearly physical starts dague3with lab tests, then a doctor’s appointment, then any additional  work.

Today, I’m sitting in the doctor’s office, when she breezes in, frowning at her computer screen. No eye contact. Cursory greeting. Then, “I have your lab results here.” Short pause. “Do you have a will written up? A medical directive? Because you need them.”

Luckily, I am a healthy person. Rarely sick. But suddenly, here I was, needing a will and a medical directive. And damn, I am feeling much better than last week, when I was still sick. And now I’m . . .dying?

I fix the doctor with a level gaze and say, “I do have a will, a medical directive, and clearly spelled out code directives. [Under what circumstances I do not want anyone to take any measures to keep me alive.] Why do you ask?”

0b2dd5ee0ce1b0119e25266cba6f4dc0She looked up from her computer. “We ask all patients to furnish them and I see that we don’t have yours on file. So bring them in to us in the next week or so.”

What a second ago had been a death sentence was now a minor administrative matter. The doctor then slapped the blood pressure cuff on me and discovered my blood pressure was higher than normal. This time, I wasn’t concerned at all.

“You just scared me–asking for my medical directive without telling me about the lab results first. So I’d expect my blood pressure to go up.”

She eyed me doubtfully. “Well, you got that completely wrong. Your labs are all normal. But your blood pressure may need monitoring.”

So there it was. I was wrong, and my blood pressure had nothing to do with a shock, because the doctor didn’t perceive her request as being scarey. So if I perceived it that way, well, I was wrong.

She agreed to take the blood pressure again in a few minutes. When she did it, the pressure was also within normal limits.

The doctor wasn’t concerned about how I might take her message. She knew what she meant, and any other meaning was simply wrong. Easily brushed off.

And that’s why she is losing me as a client. If everything is a business decision for her, and I’m a client, I want better customer service. From another provider. Medical practice is a two-way relationship. And as long as I’m on the fuzzy end of that lollipop, I’m seeing someone else.

Quinn McDonald is a healthy human being. If she’s treated decently.


47 thoughts on “Doing It Wrong

  1. I’m a little behind in my Quinn Readings and am feeling the marvel of what some call synchronicity.
    Computers are marvelous TOOLS in the right hands. Sometimes they are in the hands of people best described as TOOLS.
    Email is a wonderful thing except when it isn’t because what is said is not always what is read and the ca-ca can hit the oscillator fast and for no apparent reason. Or no apparent reason until the reason is explained.
    It is the “not getting it” that astounds me. Quinn needs a new doctor and I need an attitude adjustment that may require a resume’ update.

    But there is still the magic of getting behind on my Quinn Readings and finding this post TODAY of all days.

    I’ve never met Quinn McDonald, but she will always be my friend because we sometimes share this magic.

  2. I have fired physicians three times.

    When I was in my 20s, I went to a gyn who had pictures of Burt Reynolds (this was a looong time ago!) on the ceiling above the exam table. AS IF that made exams pleasurable! I left and started seeing a female gyn who had a poster about breast exams on the ceiling and informative brochures in holders on the wall within reach. Now THAT’s a doctor who wants her patients to be informed.

    About 20 years ago, I wasn’t feeling well (we’d just adopted 3 siblings 4, 3, and 21 months), so I went to my doctor (finally) to find out what was going on. I waited for over an hour in the exam room (watching the clock since I needed to pick up the kids from day care) while I heard him joking and reminiscing with another patient in the next room. I left without being seen. I sent him a letter outlining why I was firing him, and he wrote back (a surprise) to apologize for my wait and if I changed my mind to set up an appt. at 1:00 since that was right after their lunch and appts were seen on time. I never returned. I went to another doctor, and waited in his uncomfortable waiting room for almost an hour. I left and wrote him a letter as to why I was firing him.

    I finally tried a P.A. and am hooked. I have found that my P.A.s (two in a row, one left the practice and the other started at the same practice) DO have eye contact, humor, concern and caring. They know me and they listen to me. They honor what I say because they know who I am because over the years they have paid attention. I always suggest to others to consider P.A.s when they are seeking a medical professional.

    Yes, it is time for us to speak up for ourselves! My elderly in-laws follow their doctors’ instructions no matter what, which I find frustration: they ask no challenging questions, only clarifications about the dr’s instructions.

    BTW, for DECADES, when I have gone to get a mammogram, I have a ritual. The technicians are always friendly and attentive, instructing me to put on the cotton wrap gown with the opening in the front and come to room x. They always call me by my last name with respect. But before they begin to physically “arrange me” for my mam, I stop them. “What’s YOUR name?” They are surprised at first, then introduce themselves, apologizing and saying something like, “it’s just another part of the body” or “we get so busy we forget”. And I explain to them, “No one has ever touched these that I didn’t know their name.” So while these technicians across the board (in my experience) have always been friendly and attentive, there is still that “personal” connection that is missing.

    Medicine is an art and a science. And communication is a huge part of the art. Unfortunately, medicine is also a business. And art often loses when the bottom line is the focus.

    Go get ’em, Quinn!

    • Good advice. I ask everyone I deal with their name. I call them by name. I may not remember it, but for the time I am with them, I do. And I always ask them how they are doing today first. I’m shocked at how many technicians and nurses will say, “Non one ever asks me that!” Really? What a shame.

  3. Glad you’re changing doctors. Call for an interview first and tell them it IS an interview (because you are, after all, hiring a doctor). Then go in. The nurse should greet you, conduct a preliminary interview and introduce you to the doctor, who should see you fully clothed and ask what you are concerned about. Then he or she gets to talk about the concerns they wish to cover and how you both want to go about taking care of them. I’ve had two doctors in the past twenty years; the second that the first referred me to when we moved. I’ve never had a concern or felt as if I wasn’t heard or valued. BTW, my husband sees the same doctor as I do, so maybe Cooking Man’s doc might be a good fit?

  4. I too am going to change Internists. In 4 appointments she has never touched me. Never asked me how I’m feeling. Just looks at the computer screen and gives me a scap of paper for my a follow up. next appointmen. For what? She never sayst. Both last appointments I have had to say WAIT, I am having an issue with sleep and then my shoulder pain. Her answer without touching me is “I can refer you to an orthopedist–I can refer you to a sleep study. Granted this physician has only been out of medical a few years she clearly needs to learn a bedside manner. I could do as well with a robot.

  5. Glad you’re changing doctors. That was so uncalled for. Whenever we move, I ask the nurses in our church who the really good doctors are. Haven’t been steered wrong yet. Nurses don’t want to put up with as***le doctors.

  6. Oh my word! With all that I/we’ve gone through recently with my Mom and a surgeon who has absolutely no bedside manner, I can completely relate. On the other hand, I LOVE my internist near Old Town Scottsdale but it’s a minimum 3-month wait for new patients. Let me know if you want his info.

  7. I too have changed doctors – though only once. That time I had been assigned on to a new doc’s patient list and we really did not get on at all. We had completely different ideas about my diabetes management. I called in as soon as I had cooled down a little and asked to be moved back to my previous doc.

    I must say I find it unbelievable that so many doctors have such lousy bedside manners. After all, it has been proven many times that any treatment works better if the patient feels that the doctor listened to her patiently! Two of my friends are doctors and we have discussed about this. We suspect that this is because too many choose the profession mainly for the prestige and, well, paycheck. Both of my doctor friends are specialist in very well paid jobs but they both say that no amount of money can truly compensate the stress they are under and they would not last if they didn’t have the passion for it. It is a really hard job to get away from.

    About the blood pressure. My dad cannot have his blood pressure taken at the clinic at all because it shoots through the roof there. He always measures it at home beforehand and his doctors know this. He has been to hospitals too many times with serious complications with his heart and his body now reacts the moment he walks in through the front door. Thankfully he has several really wise doctors looking after him!

    • Those were smart doctors to know about your dad. That’s a great story. Here’s the bottom line with my doctor: I lost the weight and got my diabetes under control before she became my doctor. She now refuses to prescribe me the blood strips, because she says I am no longer diabetic. I patiently explained that I need the strips because of my ultra strict diet, and she said, “we can give you medication if the numbers get too high, but no one can keep that diet up.” Wow. She is no help at all.

      • Thank God for the universal healthcare we have here in Finland! Every diabetic person, regardless of their type of diabetes or how well they manage it, is entitle to free blood strips. You only need one document after you’ve been diagnosed to get you name on the list, so to speak, and after that only if the amount of strips you need grows dramatically. To me your doctor’s comment about you been no longer a diabetic sounds really, really strange, even unprofessional! It’s not like it’s something that can be cured. Not even type 2. The specialist nurse I sometimes see in stead of the doctor told me last time I saw her that with diabetes less than 10% of the management of the condition is in the hands of the medical staff. It is the patient herself who is the expert in charge. The docs, nurses and other specialists are just the supporting team who offer their knowledge and skills when the patient needs them. So it’s all about team work but with the patient as the team leader.

        • I so agree. I can not for the life of me understand her reasoning that if I keep my numbers under control, I’m “cured.” She also doesn’t believe I stick to the strict diet that works for me. Frankly, I do it because it keeps the weight off. But here I am, doing the best thing for my body, and she is pushing medication. I really do need a better doctor.

  8. I changed doctors after one doctor kept me waiting at least 40 minutes for every appointment (including seeing sales reps who came in after me before me); when I told him I was going to start calling in because I would be happier waiting at home if he was running late, he told me that was impossible because “sometimes I run early.” When I realized I was not getting lab tests done because I would have to see him to get the results, I changed. If you and your doctor cannot communicate, or you are stressed every time you see him or her, it is definitely time for a change. Good luck finding someone you can work with.

  9. Dear Quinn,    Oh, I so agree. I despise Doctors who treat you like a number and not a person. I have changed Doctors for that exact same reason. I think it is great that you wrote about it, you have a wonderful following. Maybe some women out there will realize that she has a choice to be treated well.    Thanks,Cathe Ekas

  10. Glad to hear that you are quite well and numbers are great. Just being in the doctor’s office is enough to raise my blood pressure. Communication between doctor and patient is of primary importance. I would be looking around for a better experience too!

  11. Oh Quinn, how frightening for you. My stomach flipped just reading this. The doctor could use some communication skills training, perhaps you could coach her? 🙂
    I’m glad to read that you are well.

  12. Glad you are in good health. I’d run away from this doctor. Can you imagine having her visiting you in a hospital bed ? You’d be worst off after she left your room. I stay away from doctors. Works for me.

  13. So happy to hear you are healthy, run, run, run as fast as you can to find a new physician! Maybe a written letter to your the office sharing your experience could help someone else, better yet just send them a copy of this blog post when you request your records be transferred !

  14. I went to see my doctor a week ago. It was annoying because he had a 4-year medical student talk to me while he sat in a chair. I explained to him what a horrible time I’ve had, trying to sleep, lying awake for hours. He offered various hypnotics and anti-depressants. I told him I don’t want to take those to get to sleep. He became a little short with me–“Well if I can’t give you pills, what do you want?? A bat??”
    So I guess my problem is my problem to figure out. Thanks, Doc. Just because I didn’t automatically want a prescription didn’t mean there wasn’t anything that could be done to figure out why this 55 year old woman can’t turn her brain off, even when she’s very tired…
    Now I have to be my own doctor and figure out what’s wrong and what I need to do? Or find another doctor who’s first response isn’t the prescription pad…

    I just want my brain to turn off; stop thinking and being aware for hours, and let me sleep!!! Hopefully without drugs, though I’m not finding natural sleep aids very effective right now… 😦

      • Traci–What a wonderful article!!! Such good suggestions and so varied that there is surely something for everyone and many ways to personalize them. I also found it very comforting that I can lean into the sleepy, relaxed state, and if I can’t sleep, it is surely almost as good and has it’s own restorative properties…I love the idea of picturing the thoughts as clouds and letting them drift on…
        Thank you so much for your thoughtfuness. I’ve been feeling so frustrated and depressed, depleted and…broken…it has been seeming hopeless and this article is a star in a very dark sky.

    • What is it with all this pill pushing? Oh, yeah, sure, I remember. They doctors get paid by the pharmaceutical companies. When I asked my doctor if she made money in any way from my prescription, she told me it was not my business. Indeed it is.

  15. Wow, that is pretty bad even for a doctors office. There are no more relationships in medical since the insurance companies have taken over. I had the best doc for years. She quit her practice and is now teaching. I hope she passes on her concern for patients to her students. Good luck with your search.

    • I hope students listen. This one is my gatekeeper and she refused to let me see a gynecologist. “You just don’t need to.” She wanted to do the exam, but no, that is not going to happen.

  16. You’ve probably heard this before but…I’m so glad I’m Canadian. I’ve never had this kind of attitude or treatment in any medical centre from any doctor, whether I’m seeing my own doctor or not (and I am no “spring chicken”!). Yikes. Move on! There must be doctors with better people/patient (client?!) skills out there!

  17. OMG! This sounds almost exactly like the conversation I had with my doctor 2 weeks ago! Except I’m still waiting for the test results, because they take up to 10 working days (which is the 20th!). There was an (unexpected, and unexplained) LabTest request given to me at reception – no explanation. The Diabetes Nurse said she didn’t know what the test was for. When I asked the doctor, she, very reluctantly, gave me a one word answer, and then changed the subject. That answer was: Leukemia.

    I will be changing to another medical practice, which only has 3 doctors, rather than my present one which has around 15 doctors, and needs to pay for it’s fancy new premises.

    So glad you’re healthy, Quinn!

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