Dear Future Physician,
Congratulations on your career choice to help make a difference in peoples lives. The amount of time, energy and work that you will put into this choice will reward you greatly in the years to come.
As a mom to a child who has been living with chronic illnesses (POTS, Chiari Malformation, Chronic Headaches, Chronic Fatigue) for the last 13 years, I would like to give you my suggestions on what makes a good doctor a great one.
One of the most important things you can do for your patients is to listen to them. Do not make them feel as though they are crazy when they tell you what symptoms they have been suffering. Take notes as they talk to you so that you will always be able to go back and say, “yes, you did tell me that before”. Be there for your patients. Let them know that you are the one person they can be themselves around, that you are willing to let them be able t o vent to you and that you will understand.
Realize that when you are dealing with patients with chronic illness that you are also dealing with their families. Their families along with the patient are the ones who deal with these illnesses on a daily basis. You will only see the patient, possibly 6 or more times a year but the family deals with this every day. Sometimes the other family members see things that the patient does not see. These details can sometimes be very important in regards to how you will treat the patient.
One of the very best doctors my daughter has is the one that she is so comfortable with that she feels like she can tell him anything and he won’t pass judgment on her. She is able to let him see her on her good days, her frustrating days, and she feels free to tell him that this or that is just not working. She can be herself with him and this makes for a GREAT patient/doctor relationship
Another important thing for you as future physician is to be available for your patient. Let them know that their concerns and questions are important. Although you are very busy, you still have those few minutes a day to answer their questions either by phone, e-mail or whatever means works for both you and the patient. My daughter’s doctor is always available by his beeper. We can beep him any time of the day and he usually responds within the hour. Although, I know that all doctors are not this way, I can tell you that this has endeared us to this physician in more ways than one. It makes my daughter feel that she matters and that her health matters.
Don’t ever be afraid to admit that you don’t have the answers. Be open minded when the patient brings you some research they have done or heard about in regards to their condition. Always be willing to refer your patient to someone who you feel can help them better. In saying that, DON’T refer them to someone else because you don’t have the TIME for them. Make the time to learn about their illness and how you can help them. If you really believe that you cannot help them, don’t be afraid to send them to other doctors who don’t work within your institution. One of the best things our daughter’s doctor did for her was to send her to a doctor 4 hours away who had the expertise in what was happening with her.
The best doctors that we have dealt with over the last 9 years are the ones who have left their egos at the door. They are the ones who have the patient’s best interest at hearts and are truly there to practice the art of medicine and to help make a difference in their patient’s live.
In closing, know that you too will make a difference in someone’s life. It is an awesome job and one that has great rewards at the end of the day. May you have what it takes to be one of the great ones!
Mom to Kerri