ONCE I HAD A PATIENT…
This is how doctors always start a conversation when they get together…
People comment all the time that doctors are “terrible”… whenever two, or more… get together, they seem not to know how to speak about anything else but work.
Well, may be it is true, but… the truth, the real truth is that I do not understand why people consider it to be surprising. The reason I do not understand is because, beyond all possible doubts, health is the number one conversation subject for… everyone!
Let us take a little time to consider this idea seriously!
Remember the last time you went to the hairdresser (or to the barber…) or when queueing at a public office, the coffe shop, the beach, or at the cinema interval… Tell me, was “someone” not always there telling “someone else” all about a list of diseases that this person had been suffering from for the last ten years of their lives (at least…) and at the same time the other someone is trying to bring up all their possible ailments, in a way they would not feel they were less than the other person.
Well, if there is nothing really relevant in their own medical past and present, there will certainly be someone in the family or closest friends that they remember having already had a disease, or an operation, or “something” worth speaking of, so that they are not left behind without a subject to follow the conversation.
Health is indeed the most important thing in our lives.
That is what doctors do, maintain health, improve health.
They deal with the most precisous “thing” for humanity. They have the power to intervene, change, improve your health… hopefully.
To speak frankly, doctors have the capacity to interfere with life, everybody’s life.
It is not easy. It is hard, almost superhuman to take decisions when interfering with life.
May be it is because there are very difficult decisions they have to take, that doctors like to exchange ideas, experiences, whenever they have a chance. Because diseases are in the books but the patients are not, patients are unique, each one “interprets” and reacts to the same disease in a different way, each one does it their own way. That is why the “road” that patients and doctors have to drive down together, to achieve their ultimate goal, health, is full of non signalised bumps and holes, tricky curbs an sliding pavements.
As unity is strength, the doctor/patient team has to be close, united and with a strong cumplicity.
It is essential to assess the risks and benefits of every decision never forgeting that there are some patients that we will not be able to help but there are none that we can not possibly harm.
Medicine besides being a science is also an art and a lot of sensibility, intuition and heart are needed in order to take decisions that will turn science more human, more adjusted to each patient’s reallity and that will help them to live life the best way possible… their own way.
Prescribing medicines is a very relevant part of all the decisions that have to be taken and for that it is important to really know well the one they are being given to.
The word “doctor” is derived from the Latin “docere,” which means “to teach.” We must do this daily as we deliver care to our patients. But, as we do it, we are learning as well. We are learning how to know, how to catch the “feeling” of a person, we are learning from the patient how to personalise care. The patient must not hide anything from the one they seek help from and there has to be, above all, trust and belief in the guidance they are offered, but never blind trust or dogmatic irrational belief. In some situations second opinions are mandatory and should be offered by your own health care provider.
It is usually said that “two heads think better than one”…and I would like to add… if they think together, with open, cooperative minds. Several heads thinking separately only create confusion, and endanger the outcome of treatment. That is why shopping around for health is dangerous. The choice has to be grounded on facts, knowledge and experience, and… your own “taste”. Like when choosing the boutique that offers you that special line of fashion that suits your body… and mind! As you keep returning, they will have the feeling of what you need and what fits you, making everything easier.
When your health care team knows you well enough they can offer you an adequate, personalised and balanced view of therapeutic benefits and harms and more realistic explanations of what treatments they have to offer, generating more active and trusting relationships.
Then, hopefully, things will turn out well.
Best health wishes,
Dr. Maria Alice
Consultant in General and Family Medicine
General Manager/Medical Director – Luzdoc International Medical Service / Medilagos
Medical Director – Grupo Hospital Particular do Algarve