Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Letter #8

Dear Future Physician:

I applaud you for taking the many steps necessary to become a physician. The costs are tremendous—of education, of time, of family. Yet, the benefits are many. You will have the opportunity to make a difference in the life of another, every single day. What an honor that will be for you.

While I prefer to know that the physicians treating my family are knowledgeable, the traits I most value are integrity and courtesy. Having six children has afforded me considerable visits to clinics, to hospitals and to emergency rooms. The only visits that stand out in my memory are those that were excellent and those that were horrific. Since I have little recollection of the ordinary, may you strive to be extraordinarily memorable.

I believe that your best efforts will come from the life lessons you have already mastered:

1. Read your patient’s file carefully before entering an exam room.

2. Leave arrogance at the door. Better yet, have no arrogance.

3. Introduce yourself and greet your patient by name.

4. Speak as a peer, unless your patient asks you to simplify.

5. Ask questions.

6. Be interested in the answers.

7. Ask whether your patient would like the procedures explained up-front.

8. Be realistic, with a healthy lean towards optimism.

9. Thank your patient, whole-heartedly, for your visit.

We, the patients, love to know that our physicians know us well enough to recognize us in different settings, to know the nicknames we have, to consider our health issues as they read new journal studies. We love to know that our physicians are thinking of our us and discussing our symptoms with appropriate healthcare colleagues. We love to know that while we are our own and our children’s best advocates, our physicians are our next-best advocates.

Please remember that the best medicine is not always medicine. Laughter, an escape from hospital confines, a change of scenery, a favorite snack---these are the essence of what a parent will find for a child. Please find them for your patients.

My husband and I have each had several broken bones. I have delivered six children. Our oldest daughter was diagnosed with an anaplastic astrocytoma at age four and died at age five. Our first son has had numerous stitches and a broken arm. Our second daughter has had stitches. Our third daughter has many stitches, four broken bones and a subsequent bone scan. Our fourth daughter and second son have had simple well-child exams. A lengthy list, by no means, makes me an authority on health issues. Still, each physician visit has presented the chance for me to determine what makes an excellent physician.

I wish you the very best and thank you for making an extraordinarily memorable difference in the life of another, every single day.



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