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What Do Patients Want? Jane Doe, MD Series, Chapter 5

To Travel the Road Of Illness in Good Hands

This is the fifth in a series of posts about returning to training at mid-life and mid- career.  I am in week four of a yearlong fellowship in a technical area of my specialty.

I do not have skill to offer to my patients.  The very reason I am here is to acquire skill.  I do not have deep knowledge to offer them anecdote and example to allay their concerns, I can only reiterate the risks/benefits as they have been told to me.  I have been frank with my patients about my deficiencies.  I have been thinking about what I do have to offer my patients.  This is not something I think I considered while in training as a newly minted doctor.

I have had three patient encounters in which I was complimented either at the time or later on rounds.  I hope to draw the common thread from the three examples.

In the first a woman asked me to stay back from the rounding team at the end of her visit.  Her comment was about gratitude for professional demeanor and how that generated confidence in her.  Another was a gentleman who remarked upon “good bedside manner”.  The third was a woman who had had the same procedure a few years prior and was fearful because she had been very uncomfortable.  Our procedures are done with light sedation and local anesthesia.  At the conclusion she was thankful for having her fears unrealized.

I think that each of these patients were comfortable with my novice status because I was honest with them, heard their concerns, addressed those concerns and projected confidence in my superiors (this is easy to do as I have now seen many of them in action and they are remarkably skilled and knowledgeable).

What do patients want?  Many things of course:  encyclopedic knowledge and finely honed skills come first to mind.  What seems to get their appreciation though is honesty, thoughtful listening and thoughtful response and a willingness to travel some of their road of illness with them.  Right now, this is what I have to offer my patients.

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