Why to Treat Your Doctor as a Person: 10 Tips

November 3, 2010

Several of our posts–and our book–assert that patients benefit by interacting cordially with their physician or other health professional.

Our general advice is to strike a balance between insensitivity and meekness.  For example, Section 8 of our book (the section on “Complaining to Your Doctor”) says:  “If you don’t express your feelings, you might start to tune out your physician, and you might stop working as an equal partner in your own health care.”

photo of a handsome, kind-looking physician in scrubsNew evidence, involving a surprising group of doctors, supports the idea that physicians are susceptible to the same pressures as the rest of us.  US News and World Report and HealthDay News summarize a study of 7,900 surgeons-a group sometimes thought of as typically machine-like and impersonal.  The study found that large percentages of surgeons are burnt out and depressed.

Conducted by Charles M. Balch and colleagues, the study appears in the November issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.   The longer the hours worked by the surgeon, the more likely he or she is to meet the criteria for burnout and depression.  Accordingly, the burnout rate is 30 percent for surgeons who work less than 60 hours per week, 44 percent for those who work 60-80 hours, and 50 percent for those who work more than 80 hours.  (Yes, those are common work weeks for physicians.)

Burnout consists of such sentiments and reactions as feeling run-down and drained of physical and emotional energy, being prone to negative thinking about one’s job, being irritable, and feeling misunderstood.

A doctor who is prey to feelings like that is not going to respond well to a patient who appears confrontational, demanding, unsympathetic, or inconsiderate.  Fuhgeddabahdit.

Instead, try to get your doctor to view you in a positive light and drive those negative thoughts right out of his or her mind!  Here are ten tips: Read the rest of this entry »