I suppose that it comes with no surprise that those of us who live with chronic illness, aren’t immune to the odd spell of “Doctor Bashing”. Let me point out here, that the word “Bashing” is being used in the verbal connotation, not the physical one. It’s not that we don’t appreciate, the things they do to makes us feel better, or that all of us, blame them directly, for either our health or for the fact they can’t fix it. No, I believe that it’s far more complex than that. Without a doubt, the majority of patients, that any family doctor sees in one day, will be those who are living with one chronic illness, or another. We are the people who fill their waiting rooms, mainly quite justifiable. Of course, take a cross-section of the public, and you will find some needy people, as many of them, as of those with more resilience will become ill. But the majority, will be there with genuine concern about some part of their health. Despite what some people think, the majority of us, actually don’t want to be going to see our doctors yet again, than anyone else does, but we can’t avoid them. We have over the lifetime of our problems, met every type of doctor possible. From the gushing, over caring and almost suffocating, right down to the cold couldn’t give a damn, “what are you doing here annoying me?”, pain in the necks. We have had to deal with the doubters, the dismissive, the converts and the know it alls. There isn’t a personality type of doctor that we haven crossed paths with and that is where our problem begins.
Personality and medical know how, aren’t the same thing. If you have been battling with your health for years, the thing we all look for is, the Dr who seems to understand what we are going through. The Dr who empathises and is eager to help us, someone who is going to go the extra mile. Unfortunately, this can mean that we latch onto the person who we like, rather than the Dr who can actually help. I know we all like to believe that our family Doctor, knows everything, sorry, but they don’t. Think about it, why do they send us scurrying to the hospital to see someone else? If they knew everything, they would order the tests and diagnosis us themselves. Yes, they can order every and any test you can think of. We don’t have to see a consultant, to get an MRI, our GP can order them too. The thing is, though, we don’t choose our family doctors because of their prowess with a scalpel, we choose them because we like them. We chose him because he can get the best out of our kids, Granny raves about him and you’re happy to sit and chat to him. Ask yourself, what does that sound closest to, to you? A well qualified professional, or a friend? Did you investigate all the medical practises in the area, or did you choose thanks to a recommendation from your neighbours, or worse still, because it was the one closest to your house? I have known an awful lot of really nice people, very few, really good Doctors. Having found this jolly good chap, we then slag them off for their first tiny little thing that we disagree with. We don’t talk to him about it, that would be disrespectful, after all, he’s our Doctor. No, we moan and grown about him to anyone else out there who might just listen, and so our “Doctor Bashing”, begins.
Chronic illness, of course, means we scurry off to the hospital a lot more frequently than other lesser mortals. We are there with laborious frequency, prodded and poked at by stranger after stranger, foist upon us by the NHS. There is no choice, no selection, we need a consultant in this or that field, and that’s what we get, the next one available. This time, Granny didn’t recommend them, no one can tell you what his favourite aftershave is, he is a total stranger, and we all know about “stranger danger”. We do our homework, we investigate everything we can about what we are going to see them about, as well, we don’t know how good a Doctor they are. If we don’t arm ourselves with the details, if we don’t have every angle covered, well who knows what might happen. We might let this well-educated person, way beyond our half an hour online, to actually do their job. Think about it, if you had spent 7 years at university, another 10 or so years at least, working alongside experts to hone your skills, before being given the accolade of “Consultant”, wouldn’t you get your hackles up slightly in having to deal with your 10th internet master of the day. But most don’t, they give a rye smile, a sigh and get on with the constant battle of proving just what they know. All too many don’t take kindly to the fact that our internet revelation hasn’t been greeted with shock and adoration, that they weren’t totally impressed, rather than crestfallen. Then leave muttering, “He wasn’t even listening to me” and once more the “Doctor Bashing” begins.
All of us are sheepish, scared and uncertain until we get that diagnosis, the thing that all this Doctor visiting was originally about. When you don’t know what’s wrong with you, it’s hard to be anything else. If we’re lucky, it is a straightforward process, weeks or at worst months, for others it’s years. Imagine how many Doctors you see in years of trying to find out what is wrong with you. Now imagine what that does to how you see Doctors, how you see yourself and how they see you. You have tried every tactic, approached each meeting in a slightly different manner in case, just in case, it’s you not them, but you have a growing belief that it’s them. It’s hard to not let that show, to not get their hackles up from the very first “Hello”. The more Doctors we see, the less we believe, the more returners they see, the less they believe. The vortex is tightening and our intensifying “Doctor Bashing” that evening, is probably equal to their “Frequent Flier Bashing”, both deeply misplaced. With luck, the light bulb eventually lights, they and you, know what is wrong, so it should be an easy jog from then on, shouldn’t it? You jest, it’s only just begun.
Firstly, we want them to cure us, they can’t, then we want the pain gone, it’s not, we want to feel better but we don’t. The opportunities for misunderstandings, disappointment and disbelief, has just begun. What we expect from our Doctors is nothing short of miracles, what we get is a dull reality that can never match up. There always has been and always will be a wide mix of good, bad and indifferent Doctors, just as there is a wide mix of good, bad and indifferent patients. That Doctor you quite simply can’t stand, who for the life of you, you can’t understand how they ever even got the title Dr., is the identical person to the one, the patient before you, raves about. Unfortunately, “Doctor Bashing” has little to do with our doctors medical ability, rather than their ability to read us, be nice to us and to send us on our way saying “What a jolly nice chap or chapess”. Is it really a wonder that the biggest problem of the time, is the overuse of antibiotics? Show me the person who doesn’t want to take a know it all, loud mouthed person and shut them up and out of our sight as fast as possible. That person demanding the drug they believe is the answer to their health or their child’s health, are all too often these days abusive and intimidating. It takes a strong person to tell them they are wrong and their not getting it. It is just the same, be it a painkiller or the drug that will keep them alive for the another 6 months. Our Doctors can’t win and personally, I think that is all wrong.
At one time, we all had a true repect for our Doctors. I agree, putting them on the pedistals they once lived on, was possible going to far. But from what I hear and have even seen, I think we have gone too far the other way. For any of us, who have ever worked in a customer facing role, we know just how hard the public can be to handle. If you try to add in, that the person is ill, worried or possible terrified, without a doubt, those people are going to be even harder to deal with. I put my hand up, yes I have entered into the odd spell of “Doctor Bashing”, although, I would say in my defence, it is the odd spot and always short lived. I am human, we all get involved in “People Bashing”, it’s one of our weaknesses. In general, I am more than grateful for what my Doctors have done for me over the last 14 years, but clearly I understand what sparks it. The next time though before I or you do such a thing, just think first, are you “Bashing” the profession, the person or possibly, yourself? It’s always worth checking.
Please read my blog from 2 years ago today – 09/12/2013 – Beaten up and waiting