3 Life Lessons from Bad Doctors

on January 4 | in Individual Improvement | by | with Comments Off on 3 Life Lessons from Bad Doctors

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Taken in whole, I haven’t enjoyed my experience with the traditional medical establishment. I frequently change physicians because of various issues – the few that I’ve found that I liked tend to move on to bigger and better things. I’m sure there’s quite a lot of good docs out there, but they’re certainly not in the majority.

Why I Have Angst Today

Yesterday (Friday) I ended up having to seek out medical attention because the infection that’s been plaguing my lungs and throat for over a week now suddenly decided to flare up in my right ear. It started with a sudden feeling of blockage and building pressure, and in a couple of hours I was in quite a bit of pain. I was nearly deaf on that side with a loud high-pitched ringing that oscillated with my heartbeat, sounding like some sort of giant slow-moving industrial fan lording over a continual dentist drill running on an airplane.

That drill-on-a-plane sound continues today, but the pain’s manageable now and the industrial fan is only occasional (I checked – my heart’s still beating, no worries). Not that the doc I went and saw, my first time with him, was a pleasure. He dismissed my ear pain and complaints after a perfunctory check, then put me on a “breathing treatment” for my lungs. Nothing like throbbing pain while inhaling on a plastic tube billowing legal vapor. Good times.

At least I got a Halloween bag of goodies, I guess. I immediately went and bought some unprescribed pain pills as the most important medical purchase of the day.

Lesson 1: Help People With What They’re Seeking, Not What I’m Good At

Reflecting back, clearly the MD focused on my lungs because he couldn’t do much, if anything, about my ear. In other words, he looked to see where he could improve my situation the most and targeted that. Nothing wrong there, I’m sure that I’ll improve as I follow his recommendations. The problem is that he simply didn’t listen. He seemed surprised as I left suddenly, as though I was being unreasonable. I knew how to improve my breathing, though – I didn’t know how to stop the building pressure and pain in my ear.

Looking at my own role as a service provider, I know I’ve probably done the same thing. People come to me for all sorts of website-related issues, and of course my inclination is to focus on the programming and web development aspects of whatever is at hand. So, I resolve to try to take myself out of the assistance I provide people – I will attempt to listen to their problems and address them by first focusing on resolving the pain. It is not the case that we should help people in the best way that we can; we should help people with the things they need help with.

I’ll have to work on this one over time since my listening ability is somewhat impaired at the moment. 😉

Lesson 2: Admit to Lack of Knowledge

We dropped the previous doctor, before this one who will probably be dropped as well, because she didn’t have a clue about seizures. This by itself would have been enough since we need someone with such knowledge. But she faked it. If we hadn’t done significant research on our own and talked to a couple other doctors before her, we wouldn’t have known that she was simply reciting brochure-level material and that very little of what she was saying bore on our situation. Still not enough reason? No worries, there’s more – she also flatly said that there was nothing proactive we could do to improve our situation. That’s false.

Looking at myself, I know I’ve done those things too. Hopefully not when such mission-critical stuff was on the line, but I think that perhaps many of us do that. How often do you read two or three articles, or watch a couple videos, and then go spouting off to people about the things you learned as if you’re some sort of expert on the subject? That’s terrible – think about how often people may be misled if they trust us as sources without doing their own research. So, I resolve to clearly outline the limits of my knowledge when I discuss things. Not only will that help prevent the spread of incomplete information, but it will also help prevent me looking like the fool that dropped doctor was.

Lesson 3: Enable People

Two more docs back, we dropped a physician with an awesome bedside manner. He wasn’t afraid to talk about personal subjects, had a wealth of knowledge, and acted like a person instead of some sort of prescription machine. A great guy, but not a great doctor – once we got into month three of prescribed antibiotics for my son’s recurrent ear infections (must run in the family), we sought alternative opinions. We found a great lady doc, who then promptly moved as all the good ones seem to do, who immediately cancelled the antibiotics and instead just focused on behavior-improvement strategies we could use to help my son stop getting ear infections. Three weeks later the infections stopped and haven’t come back.

Drugs aren’t always or even generally the best answer to medical complaints. In the same way, loans and favors aren’t generally the best answer to personal complaints. Rush jobs and emergency meetings aren’t generally the best answer to business complaints. So, I resolve to look at why problems are happening when people ask me for help, and to help them to prevent the problems from arising rather than just resolving the issues after the fact. Teach a man to fish.

Bad Doctors versus Difficult Doctors

Most people make the kinds of mistakes and have the sort of pride issues that the three doctors I described above do. The only reason it’s especially offensive to me is because, of course, we’re talking about my family’s health here. Very hard to be happy without health; you can be happy without money or success or friends, but when the body bitches loudly it takes some severe meditation to work up peacefulness.

My favorite doc (not mentioned above, and she moved too) completely disagreed with all my ideas about natural remedies, completely castigated me on bad life choices, and was hard as hell to get an appointment with. All in all, all the signs of an unsuccessful service provider, no?

Hell no. She always had a smile, almost never gave a prescription, and worked hard to make it so that my family and I needed her as little as possible. In other words, she was a human who dealt with health and a doctor who did everything she could to put herself out of a job. Never in a hurry, obviously happy, and always ready to shake hands and make eye contact.

It’s much better to be difficult and scarce than it is to be readily available and too distracted to actually help people.

Here’s hoping that dentist drilling on the airplane takes a coffee break,
Keep on keeping on,

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