Please Allow Me to Apologize on Behalf of the Entire Medical System...
It started as soon as I was accepted into medical school. People would feel inexplicably compelled, upon learning of my career path, to tell me their medical horror stories. It was never in relation to a bona fide medical error, but usually in reference to some asshat physician who was insensitive. I've heard stories about how someone's aunt was told that she had cancer by a physician over the phone while he was chewing loudly in her ear. I've heard about family doctors who have erroneously diagnosed people flippantly with everything from 'probably herpes' to 'possibly leukemia' until tests showed that they were fine.
In these cases I often expressed the appropriate amount of horror and sympathy, thinking that was likely the best I could do under the circumstances. Inside, of course, I was wondering if the doctor would have told a much different version of the story. But defense of the doctor was obviously not what these people were looking for. I'm not sure exactly what they WERE looking for (anyone feel free to enlighten me?) but they seemed satisfied with my response at the time.
Now it's a whole new ball game. Now I'm considered part of the giant enemy. I'm one of them. Now, apparently, my sympathies and apologies aren't going to cut it. Now I get all kinds of complaints-- my room is too cold, my nurse doesn't come fast enough, I want to see a real doctor... it never ends. In fact, I am often paged at odd hours because a patient, facing discharge, does not feel that he or she has had a chance to adequately air their grievances. So the nurse does what I'd certainly do in his or her situation... passes the buck. Page the intern.
I'm the first to admit that our medical system is far from perfect. That being said, it worries me when people talk as though our only alternative is a system modeled after our neighbours to the south. In my opinion, our system is the lesser of two evils (in spite of the fact that a nice cushy job in a private hospital is looking like heaven to me right now). But plenty of other countries have managed to do a better job at providing health care than any of the ones on our continent. In France, where I did a month-long elective in general surgery after my second year of medical school, the country has managed to make a two-tiered system both sustainable and satisfying to the people who use it. But I digress...
I find it ironic that the people who expect me to act instantly to fix what's bothering them are the same people who, just minutes after introducing myself as doctor Couz, ask when they're going to be seen by the doctor. So I'm medically impotent, but when it comes to making your nurse respond to your call bell immediately or the fact that your dinner was cold I'm expected to produce immediate results.
Just call me Couz: Medical Ombudsman.