Dear Future Physician,
I want to say thank you for all to the years of training you are about to endured. Congratulations are in order for those have made it through the many years of training and exams, and are reading this letter as a doctor themselves.
I have had many different encounters as a patient in the medical community, even though I am only in my 20’s. I wish I could say they have all been great, but I guess life is not always perfect. I want to say what is really important to me when going to see a doctor is one that you can tell from the start cares. This comes I believe in many different ways, from the time you step foot into the reception area, to the time in the exam to the closing goodbye from the receptionist. I believe being a good doctor is two parts, one being focused on yourself, and how you portray yourself. Also the other would be to hire and work with people that portray and show your professional beliefs, in that people matter, not just the profit.
My ankle surgeon was the best doctor I have ever visited in my entire life. His bedside manner was quiet but yet in his body language, eye contact, and hand shake every time he walked in or out of the room, is how I could tell he cared, and wanted the best for me. There has been many times my case has not been the norm, and he was not ashamed to admit that. He referred me personally to his professor at medical college to make sure he was making the right step with doing the evasive surgery. He is always willing to call me back personally whenever I called his office and left him a message. I never felt like a bother even when calling or making after office visits to fix a tight cast, or loose bandage. I remember one time when I was puking my guts out, and I had a super tight cast, I called his office, he was super busy and behind schedule (not unusual because he spends so much time with every one of his patients, he was always behind schedule, but that never matter to his patients cause they know he cares), so his receptionist said he said to go straight to the ER and he would call the ER with instructions for them. My parents packed me in the car, and off we went. I was wheeled back, and low and behold my surgeon was standing in the room waiting for me. This was 10pm at night (yes I waited 3 hrs in the ER waiting area) in a busy ER during flu season. My doctor showed up because he not only cared about my ankle, but he cared about me. He knew I was concerned about others messing things up so he was there to take the cast off and put a new one on. In my book anyone could have done that same exact thing, even maybe an ER assistant. However my surgeon took the time to come to the ER and do it himself. The thing that rings in my ear all the time, is when my parents went to thank him for his troubles, and how sorry they were he had to come and do this so late at night, his comment was like no, don’t be sorry, I am glad I can do this, and it is what I am here for, anytime, he shook our hands and left. I want to say I am pretty good at telling when a doctor really cares, or just pretends to care. I think for one to be a good doctor you really need to show concern and compassion, and be human. Biggest is treat everyone like you would want to be treated. One does not need come across that you possess all the answers, so don’t ever lie or pretend to answers, but instead tell the patients, you are human and willing to find the answers. That means you follow through, no empty promises, even if that results in hours of research, or many phone calls to fellow collogues. Another is being available to your patients, either via phone, email or physical contact. There is so many times I had questions whether or not to have surgery, or other stupid post surgery questions or concerns and my doctor was always willing to call me back personally to make sure I had all the answers and information I needed. If you want your patients to trust you, and listen to your advice, you need to listen to them and trust them when they confide in you with their concerns or questions, even if means you need to spend 5mins on the phone with a concerned mother at the end of a busy day.
The last thing is hiring people that share the same professional beliefs as yourself. Nothing is worse then walking into a medical practice to a nasty not helpful over stressed very snappy receptionist. Another bad thing is when nurses walk you into exam rooms take vitals and never make a sound, or gossip to you about the doctor or others personnel in the practice the entire time. My ankle surgeon I spoke of before have some of the best medical staff, ones that even after a few visits you feel like you known them forever and know you on a first name basis. Ones that make you feel welcomed into the waiting area, and leave you feeling good too, even if you might be in a leg cast and on crutches and feeling blue. They should be helpful and happy to be providing a service for you even if it is horrible stressful day. One needs to remember even with insurance, the patient is a customer and one should be treated with the utmost respect in every aspect of the visit, not just in the exam room with the doctor.
In closing, you might not be a perfect doctor for everyone. However I believe if you truly care, and trust your patients you then you will be doctor that people can trust, and respect. Then in the end people will WANT to be your patient and the word will spread about your character amongst others. Continue to strive for trust, and compassion and not wealth and statue and you will be greatly rewarded in the end.