The world of medicine is like a bubble. A lot of people THINK they know what goes on there, but unless you're down in the trenches it's unlikely you do. So here is my semi-anonymous blog, here to tell you what really goes on in the life of a medical resident.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

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.



Anonymous ron said...

"i want to see the REAL doctor"... FUNNY!

10:10 PM

Blogger Gabbergirl said...

Can I just say I love your Blog? It's really cool to see the "other" side of the medical world, and you are a great writer. Now how about some more Mowgli tales? ;o)

11:22 PM

Anonymous Sandra said...

I think once people know what line of work you do they tend to tell you horror stories because they might expect some sort of explination because you are one of them. An inside link.

You have a clear view of what it is to be and are in their shoes. As patients we only get to see a hurried doctor who barely has time to explain all. To patients at times doctors seems insensitive or unwilling to share complete ideas which would make their patients feel more comforted when faced to be at the hospital for whatever reason.

For some reason society views doctors, police officers and fire fighters as higher just because the studied to practice in their fields. We forget that you are human, make mistakes and that some times medicine is subjective. There are no clear cut answers.

Keep your chin up and remember the reasons why you wanted to be a doctor at times when you are treated more as a servant.

9:30 PM

Blogger Charmsy said...

Ah Couz, your blog is my favourite! I can relate - I don't know how many bad health care system stories I've heard because I work for health. People can be so silly.

3:40 PM

Blogger ICU 101 said...

don't you know, nurses live to pass the buck to residents? :Þ

what i love, though, is how many times i can explain something to a patient or their family and they just won't take my word for it... but as soon as someone wearing a white coat states the exact same thing, it's gospel... it's even funnier when i've told the resident what to say because they have no clue how things work, since it's their first week with the service... i'm sure you must feel the same way about how patients respond to the attending MD, though...

anyway, couz, i wish you patience for your patients (and all the other complainants)... sounds like you're going to need it!

12:28 AM


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