Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Respect

'Dr. Evil'!  I didn't spend six years in Evil Medical School to be called 'mister', thank you very much." - Dr. Evil

The rigor of spending years in medical school, followed by several more years in medical or surgical training, then followed by several decades of helping people seems (in the past, at least) to have earned doctors a respected standing in the community, and rightfully so (if I do say so myself).  "Yes, doctor" used to be the usual refrain in hospitals and doctors' offices, with most people following "doctors' orders" to the letter.  Admittedly that wasn't always a good thing, since doctors are human and therefore fallible, and we do make mistakes on occasion.

Regardless, that sense of esteem seems to have degraded significantly over the past few decades.  I have some difficulty pinpointing the exact cause, but I at least partially blame Google (fuck you, Bing).  All you need to do is input your symptoms into the search engine, and in 0.325 seconds you can find out that you either have tularemia, Wilson's disease, a heart attack, or (most likely) just a simple cold.  Now that the entire content of centuries of knowledge and research is available with just a few keystrokes, doctors just don't seem to have that mystique of the all-knowing healer.  

But I had no idea just how much that respect had withered until I met Isabella.

You might say I heard Isabella (not her real name) before I met her.  Her voice preceded her by at least 10 seconds as the medics wheeled her down the hall into my trauma bay.  I can't even remember what she was yammering on about (INDOOR VOICE, PLEASE), but whatever it was held great importance to her and only her. 

After the medics described how this 20-year old girl had been bumped in the hip by a car reversing out of a parking spot at the approximate velocity of an intoxicated snail, I introduced myself as her trauma surgeon and asked if she had any medical problems. 

"No I don't, dear."

The tone of this "dear" wasn't polite or affectionate like your grandmother would use.  No, it was more like a guy calling another guy "pal" when saying, "Yeah, let's take this fight outside, pal."  

Trying to stay polite, I continued.  "Do you take any medicine at home?" 

"No nothing, hon."

I again heard a distinct sneer in her voice.  The insincerity hit me in the face like a fart in a taxi with the windows up, but I pressed on, suppressing my growing annoyance.  I asked her what hurt.

"Just my hip a little.  Dear."

Without another word (but while grinding my teeth enough to wear off the enamel) I completed my workup.  I looked at all her X-rays (which were all shockingly normal) and went to tell her that all she had were bumps and bruises.  I then made one last mistake - I asked her if she had any questions.

"No, sweetie."

And that was the last straw.  I don't know what problems she had had with doctors in the past, but I refused to allow her to take out her frustration on me.  I looked her dead in the eye and in my best Clint Eastwood voice said, "My name is not dear, hon, sweetie, sweatheart, or babe.  My name is Doctor {redacted}."

The room went dead silent, and I saw the nurses all look at each other with wide eyes as if to say, "Did he actually just say that?"  All of them grinned, and two of them actually started applauding (apparently this young lady had been just as condescending to them as well).  The girl was clearly taken aback, stunned that someone had the audacity to stand up to her.  My bet is that she had been treated like a little princess her entire life and was used to people bowing down to her.  I was frankly surprised she wasn't wearing a tiara.  But I wasn't done with her, or her attitude, just yet.

"Now, do you have any questions for me?" I repeated slowly and grimly, refusing to break eye contact.

"No, doctor," she replied meekly.

That was the most respect she had shown anybody all night. 

11 comments:

  1. Bravo!
    I always talk to my PCP like he knows more than I can ever hope to (at least in medical issues) and I give him the respect he deserves. I'm not always so kind to the P(physical) T(Torture) people because they make me hurt more sometimes than I already hurt.

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  2. Good for you, but I think you are a bit delusional about former generations obedience to what their doctor told them. My dad never, ever followed his doctors instructions. I used to wonder why he even wasted his time going to one.

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  3. Are you by chance related to the Redacteds in Tulsa? :-P

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    1. I believe they are my distant cousins.

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  4. I was my oncologist's worst nightmare. That's a different situation than emergency treatment, no doubt. In the event of a traumatic, life-threatening injury I wouldn't have the luxury of being able to pore over page after page after page of medical jargon I barely understood, so that I could chart out my own treatment. But at least when I was arguing with him I did assume he could keep up ;)

    Did you think to ask if the "bump" had been an accident or a murder attempt gone bad?

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    1. Where's the like button? It could have been a staged insurance hit too. 8-)

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  5. I'm betting it was the latter...sounds like a "teenager" with a real bad case of eighteen-itis. I had one a good number of years ago myself. I had to have her go live with her older sister cause we were taking bets as to who was going to kill her in her sleep first. o_o

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  6. Wow... there's a disease named after me. Wilson Disease.

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    1. Now that made me laugh out loud.

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  7. Standing ovation for you, Dr. Redacted!

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  8. Good for you. I always address my health care professionals properly and expect them (and their staff) to return the courtesy. Why, then, is my 84 year old father constantly referred to as "dear, sweetie, hon" by nearly everyone he comes in contact with at the doctor's office or hospital? His physicians have, to my knowledge, always called him Mr. Smith. Dad hates being called by these pet names (known as "elderspeak" and there's a ton of information on the internet about it) but he won't speak up. I will. The worst was when a nurse referred to him as "the little man in room ___." I told her he was not "the little man" but Mr. Smith.

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