The Match Game
I am a Migraine patient educator and advocate with no headache specialist.
Surprised? With 37 million Migraineurs and only 290 headache specialists to treat them, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to do the math.
As you read this, I am heading to Los Angeles and the American Headache Society’s annual Scientific Meeting, surrounded by the world’s headache and Migraine rock stars. Literally everywhere I look there are people I have admired for years, and I am like a star struck idiot.
So, when I write this post it is with true wistful longing that I describe my dream doctor. I know they’re out there, for I have met them in the flesh! For me however, the search is ongoing.
Finding the right doctor is a bit like finding the right mate… You can’t just throw two people together and expect them to *work*. There’s a lot that goes into a good health care partnership, and a good portion of it doesn’t belong on a laundry list of desirable traits. That said, I’m going to give it a good try in the form of my (not so serious, but serious)…
10 commandments for the ultimate doctor.
#1. Thou shalt have no other patients before me. When I am in thy room, givest me thy kind undivided attention. Thou shalt treat me as if I am your only patient. Readest thou my history and ask pertinent questions, but respect me and do not interrupt me, for though you are blessed with great learning, I am the expert of my body. Thou shalt diligently keep in good contact with me, returning phone calls promptly, for my time is also valuable. Thou shalt promptly send me my records, lab and imaging results, for thine aren’t mine only physician.
#2. Thou shalt not create in your mind the patient you’d like to see, but be content with the patient before you. Flaws and all. Thou shalt check thy ego at thy door, for thou knowest in thine heart that we are both human beings. Thou hast great knowledge of thy books, but yea, I have great knowledge of my body, my symptoms and my disease. Together, we shall listen and learn and conquer the beast that troubles me.
#3. Thou shalt not speak of me or mine condition in a derogatory manner. ‘Tis a difficult task to remember when thou art stressed, but important to me. For every time thou speakest in a derogatory manner or makes sport of another patient, thou hast created an atmosphere that influences staff and results in substandard care, disrespect and potential harm to thy patients. Verily, it will be overheard by patients and staff, and they shall live out their days wondering what thou hast said about them, and distrust shall rule all the land.
#4. Thou shalt be available to patients. Thou shalt provide them reliable staff and up to date communication tools so when thee takest needed time out for thyself and thy family, patients feel secure knowing they will not be forgotten when they are sick, hurting, frightened or in need of care.
#5. Thou shalt keep up to date in thy field of expertise. Thou shalt take the time needed to stay current in thy journal reading and thy continuing education credits so thou shant order antiquated tests or prescribe antiquated medication protocols. Because thou shalt follow commandment #4, this shall be an easy task. Thou shalt acknowledge online tools available to patients and shalt not chastise them when they bring forth journal articles nor questions resulting from their efforts to participate in their own health care. Thou shalt address thy patient’s questions and respect them for being proactive patients, and thou shalt not then leave the room and break commandment #3.
#6. Thou shalt always do thy very best for each patient and their families. When necessary, thou shalt talk to patients and families after hours or over lunch, and spend time researching for thine patients’ best interests. For while thee takest thy time, thy patients suffereth greatly. Thou shalt not overbook patients, but shall sometimes schedule fewer patients when they needest additional attention. Thou shalt acknowledge when ye are clueless, and shalt give out carefully researched and timely referrals whenever necessary. Above all, thou shalt remember that “Do No Harm” refers to the body, mind and spirit of the patient and their families.
#7. Thou shalt not utilize cookbook medicine. For thine patients are different one from the other, and the disease they suffer shall not follow rules nor laws. When thy medicine fails, thou shalt not give up on the patient and call them hopeless, but ye shall converse with other doctors, pharmacists and caretakers to glean new ideas which might help thy patient live a better life.
#8. Thou shalt be forthcoming and honest: to patients by not ordering unnecessary testing or office visits, treatments you know will be unsuccessful, and expensive medications when cheaper versions will suffice. Thou shalt not sell thine own products at an exorbitant fee when they are available elsewhere for less. Thou shalt treat patients as human beings and consumers as ye did when ye first struggled to build thy practice.
#9. Thou shalt not give up. Thou shalt never tell a patient they are “hopeless” or need to “learn to live with it”. Whilst thou may become discouraged ye will remember that the patient who lives with the disease struggles every moment of their life. Thou shalt seek the root cause of a problem when possible, and shall not ignore symptoms. Thou shalt use a diagnosis of psychogenic, psychiatric or psychological only after all other stones have been turned. Thou shalt assume first that symptoms are physiologic in nature before assuming a mental diagnosis.
#10. Thou shalt be a learned friend. Treat thy patients with the respect ye would like to see shown to thine own family members. Remember that thy white coat ye wearest signifies learning, but not godlinesss. Know thy patients as a friend would, for in this way ye will help create a good partnership with them, and shall be less likely to miss subtle changes they may not think to ask thee about. Remember thy patients are human beings and so much more than their diseases. Remember that healing of thy body requires healing of the psyche and thy soul as well.
This is a rough list and a lot of physicians will look at it and feel that I am asking for too much. However, I have had physicians who were the perfect example of what this list illustrates. I know it is possible.
Am I expecting too much? Perhaps. But I prefer to shoot for the moon and end up among the stars, than settle for something else because I didn’t feel like trying.
National Migraine Awareness Month is initiated by the National Headache Foundation. The Blogger’s Challenge is initiated by www.FightingHeadacheDisorders.com.
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