“Doctors are not known for being empathic.” “I have found this surprising since you ask any medical student why she wants to be a doctor, and one invariably hears the ‘I want to help people’ reply.” “Somewhere along the path to being a physician, however we seem to lose that desire to understand and share the feelings of patients, and instead we start referring to patients as ‘The heart attack in Room 306’ rather than, ‘Mrs. Smith, mother of 3 kids.'” Some of it is likely a coping mechanism, but this detachment also impacts our delivery of care.” says John Whyte, M.D., MPH, Former Chief Medical Expert and VP, Health and Medical Education at Discovery Channel.

Dr. Whyte says that as he has approached his mid-40’s he has seen a change in how he practices medicine. “Getting older has helped me relate more to patients – even understand medicine more thoroughly from a patient’s perspective – and thereby become a better doctor.”

Here are a few things he has learned…

*Remembering to take one’s medicines sounds a lot more simple than it really is. How difficult is it to remember to take 2 pills a day for the rest of your life? Well, I’ve learned it’s much more difficult than I thought. I constantly ask patients about missing any dosages of medicines. I don’t do it in a judgmental way, but rather I acknowledge that it’s hard. Patients often like to please their doctors, and don’t want to admit when they forget to take medicines. That can cause problems because if a patient’s blood pressure is high, and we think a patient is taking all their medicines, when in reality, they are not, we might end up switching them to a higher dose than they need. And that can cause problems.

*Pain needs to be managed aggressively. Low back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor. And when a primary care physician sees “LBP” on the schedule, he/she often cringes. That’s because low back pain is quite difficult to diagnose the specific cause and therefore to treat successfully. And it can sometimes be a diagnosis necessary for workman’s comp or desire for opioids – two areas many doctors want to avoid. So it’s a condition that some doctors loathe to see, and therefore don’t manage well. However, having experienced some acute episodes of low back pain, I can attest how debilitating it is. I didn’t quite appreciate the ramifications of not being able to bend over to tie one’s shoes or to pick something off the floor. Now I am much more focused on getting pain relief for patients, whether it is medicines, physical therapy, time off of work, or sometimes surgery. I understand their pain, and actively work to manage it. I don’t question patients’s motives for pain relief nor do I view pain as a natural part of getting older – because it isn’t!

*It is hard to incorporate exercise into family life. I have always been a big supporter of healthy living – eating fruits, nuts, vegetables, fish and being active. And I probably was not always understanding or sympathetic when I was single as to why patients could not find 30-60 minutes a day to exercise, or make a healthy meal. Now that I’m older, married and a parent – I can’t figure out how to find one day a week to go to the gym! And dinner with a toddler is a ticking bomb until all the food is all over the floor, or there’s a a fit of crying. Making Chilean sea bass with Chinese vegetables simply isn’t going to happen anymore without a lot of advanced planning! Now I talk to patients about how they can multitask – spend time being active by playing with their children, walk around at work instead of sitting in the chair all day, prepare healthy meals on Sunday for the entire week. I try to show patients the value of small steps, and how small steps combined over time can make a significant difference in reducing and preventing disease.

huff post health.com
2/26/15

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