“You have a nice bedside manner. I don’t feel stupid being honest about the health concerns I have. And I don’t feel like you’re judging me when I tell you my A1C went up; that makes it easier to be honest with you about where I struggle.”
“I really appreciate that,” she said.
I’m in the process of switching to a new primary care clinician. I had found a clinician a year or two ago and the fit was convenient geographically, but the personality fit was not good. The previous doctor seemed preoccupied with checking boxes and following rigid protocols, seeing my health concerns in their own compartments instead of as part of a bigger whole. I really wanted to find a clinician who would let me tell her I had a routine dilated eye exam without launching into a big tirade about why I needed to have a dilated eye exam. (My old doctor did this all the time. “Do you smoke?” “No.” “Smoking is really bad for you.” … long pause ... “I agree. That’s why I don’t smoke.”)
My goal was to find someone who made eye contact, who was knowledgable, and who was willing to share mutual respect.
And I found her, I think, when I randomly had to make an appointment last year for a tetanus shot because of some fabric pumpkins.
The clinician on call that day had a warm demeanor. She was thorough in gathering my medical history and didn’t immediately default to blaming my diabetes for everything that ailed me. Even though my appointment that day was about cutting myself with a saw, our interactions gave me hope that she might be the primary care clinician I was looking for.
So today, during my yearly physical, I asked if I could switch my care over to her in full. I told her what I was looking for in terms of a clinician/patient relationship and asked what she expected from me, as a patient. We all but shook on it. (Actually, we might have shaken on it.)
And now we’re partners in my healthcare. She’s willing to take me on as a patient, knowing I have a basket full of chronic conditions to juggle in addition to my tendency to be very upfront about my expectations. She came back at me with her own expectations and a kind appreciation for my engaged approach to healthcare. It’s only Visit 2 but it feels like a good fit. Our goals align.
“So yeah, personal interaction matters to me. And I appreciate that it matters to you, because I know there’s not a billing code for compassion or empathy.”
“But there shouldn’t have to be,” she said. “It’s why I got into medicine. To help people. To help.”
I will do everything I can to make this patient/clinician relationship a good one, because I think this doc is a rare bird. Hopefully, in time, her application of careful and kind care will become less rare and more the norm. I know my health will benefit as a result of her care.