An Open Letter To Doctors

Dear Distinguished Members of Society,

Congratulations on completing your medical degree and kudos for your dedication to achieve a measure of excellence in your chosen specialty. I appreciate the time and financial resources it took to realize your dream. So, hats off to you for your perseverance.

Knowing the enormous burden it must be to uphold your sworn oath to do no harm, constantly exude confidence beyond that of us mere mortals, maintain the demanding schedule of seeing a new patient every 12.5 minutes and still make time to enjoy fine dining with pharmaceutical reps, I’d like to take this opportunity to let you know I am aware that my health is primarily my own responsibility. So, take a deep breath and relax. This will only take a minute. I just want to make you aware of a few things.

If I show up in the emergency room, for any reason other than a severed limb, I am not looking for Vicodin.

If I make an appointment with you, for any reason other than the spontaneous growth of an appendage not natural for my gender, I am not looking for hormone replacement therapy.

I will never waste your time or mine asking you to discuss what drugs might be right for me. I don’t want samples of anything, unless you’ve got something from Chanel.

Even if my labs show toxic levels of pesticides, herbicides, formaldehyde, asbestos and that orange shit they spray on Doritos, please don’t have your P.A. call me. Ever. I know it may be as difficult for you to deliver bad news over the phone as it is for you to remember my name after you’ve stepped out in the middle of our appointment for a meet and greet with some sharp dressed hottie from Eli Lilly, Astra Zeneca, Pfizer or Glaxo Smith Kline, but really, I know that your P.A. hates your guts and doesn’t care about anything except getting me off of their call sheet.

Chances are they won’t know the answers to my annoying questions anyway. So, just save us both some trouble and charge me an extra co-pay to see you face to face.

If you need help deciding what to do, treatments covered by my HMO are available online. Just pick something that will give me a fighting chance. Oh, and pick out something nice for yourself too. You know best what will help out with that payment on your beach house.

To sum up, I think it’s awesome that you drive a Jaguar and a Lexus. It makes me happy to be alive in an age when the business of healthcare can provide you with the lifestyle you so richly deserve after the great sacrifice you made for your education.  I am sure it’s just stress that makes it so hard for you to treat me like a person. Keep trying though; I know you can do it!

You’re smart, right?

Kind Regards,

Patient #4750381926

P.S. If you are a doctor reading this, we all know about the ridiculously high cost of malpractice insurance and how hard it is to hire competent staff. We also know that nurses do most of your job and that they make significantly less for the long hours and arrogance they have to endure. So there!

47 thoughts on “An Open Letter To Doctors

  1. This reminds me of one of my friends who indeed wasn’t called at all by her doctor’s office, not even a nail-filing P.A., to tell her about the “positive” results of a test they ran. It was the lab, weeks later, that was so kind to tell her that she owes them money for it. Money is a bad incentive for a profession that should have altruism at its core.

    1. Service levels like that are frustrating. A similar experience was when I received a call to schedule a follow up appointment to discuss biopsy results and the caller told me to hold for billing to discuss payment before scheduling.
      I simply stated that my insurance information was on file and I was not going to discuss payment. If the doctor was going to treat me, we could schedule the appointment, but if my care was contingent upon the billing department I’d find another doctor. Of course, a supervisor came to the phone and we had a nice chat about it. I don’t budge when it comes to service. Healthcare is a business, for sure. Our bodies are our own business and to compromise their care to legislative hacks and Jaguar Jockeys is too much to ask.

  2. Nice post, very honest. I visited my doctor (I use that term lightly), the same dr. I have had for the past 15 years, and the first thing he asks me is “Who are you again?” I think he has dementia or something. He then asks what drugs I am taking, and how much I want. This is not what I visit my doctor for. What a moron. Hell, his nickname here in this town is Dr. Holiday. He books appointments and when you show up, he is out of town! Great blog you have here, nice work!

  3. ‘that orange shit they spray on Doritos’ – ha, loved that 🙂

    I really felt this. Loved the way you expressed the hottie, & the drugs oh so topic. All excellent.

  4. I’m reminded of a time when I had to visit doctors three times within the space of two months (back pain, abscessed tooth, and something else) and wound up with three different Vicodin prescriptions. I never had to open the second batch and didn’t bother to have the third one filled. If I were evil and greedy, I probably could’ve made a tidy profit in illegal secondhand sales. Not my thing, though. Thanks anyway, docs!

  5. The part about nurses really resonated with me. As a first-time mother of a five month old, I was awestruck with the discrepancy between the levels of care I received from the nurses and the OB who attended my delivery. The nurses had my best interests in mind the entire time and were my true advocates, whereas my doctor berated me over the phone when I called to notify him that I was in labor. Later at the hospital, he gave a flat apology for being so ugly with me over the phone and said that he had been in the middle of an argument with his teenage daughter when I called. Needless to say, the nurses who attended me didn’t show a shred of unprofessionalism as the doctor did. Yet of course they only make a fraction of what he makes. Sad.

    1. Wow, you have some great times ahead of you. I hope you and your child enjoy exceptional health. A parent has to be an advocate for sure. Nurses make all the difference in the L & D experience, don’t they?

      1. Luckily I haven’t really had to find out. I do have a doctor but since I don’t have insurance it costs me about three times what they used to charge my insurance. Hoping to get insurance again but even more I am hoping to stay well until I do!

  6. Honie, I think many people have probably experienced this. I know that you realize not all docs are like this, but your writing is right on with what’s going on in healthcare today with many people. Thought-provoking piece, my friend.

    1. Thanks Brigitte. Yeah, spending so much time rotating day and night shifts with Donna’s mom, so that one of us was always there in case she needed anything made me keenly aware how much gets overlooked due to staff shortages, attitudes, etc.
      Primary care physicians, as well as specialists for my own healthcare have been a mixed bag over the years. I now know the right questions, and of course I am assertive, but even so, some doctors are condescending or try to give me the bums rush. Searching for another doctor. What a pain! 🙂

      1. It is a pain! Sometimes we stay with the “wrong” doc just because of that. Trust me, I’ve had docs who don’t seem to see ME as a patient. The older I get, the more I find that intolerable.

  7. I’ve always known nothing but free health care in the countries I live in, so haven’t experienced quite what you describe and what an American friend described on landing in Los Angeles with a child with a burst ear drum and going to emergency. They were refused treatment despite offering to pay, unless they could provide the name and address of their US doctor( they lived in NZ), and various other difficult details. Luckily my friend was able to ring her mother in some distant state and give the name of her mother’s doctor, otherwise the child would never have received treatment, My gripe is the closed minds of most doctors due to their training – no lateral thinking. So that though I cured my GP of his blinding migraine in three minutes, by doing a simple pain banishing technique on him, it never crossed his mind to ask me to show his nurses, so that they could use it or teach it – or so that he could!!

  8. Reblogged this on Fear No Weebles and commented:
    I want to photocopy this post and hand it to every doctor I know. Thanks Honie, for saying this better than I could, and without swearing.

    [Disclaimer: Yes, I know that not all doctors are like this. But as we’ve already discussed, most have us have encountered this sort of thing at least once or twice.]

  9. I love love love this. You and I are new to each other, Honie, but wow, we seem to be on the exact same page. After 10+ years working in pharma, I’ve switched gears to become a patient advocate. For the very reasons you mention here.

    In fact, would you mind if I reblog this?

  10. You’ve had some bad care, bad experiences, and bad doctors/medical corporations.
    Please don’t paint all docs with the broad generalities – they aren’t all like this.
    I do not know your exact situation, or location, but legally drug reps can no longer waltz in an smooze and hand out free gifts. – laws have been passed. Dinners may be attended at night – rarely during the day.
    Most docs now work on salary from corporations /group practices run my a management corp/ hospitals because running a private practice is too expensive and too complex with all the insurance / healthcare mandates.
    The office staff/ PAs/ nurses are hired by the corporation – and the doctors frequently are upset with how mismanaged the offices/ wait /scheduling is done – but the docs have no control over it. Corporations insist PAs and staff handle certain patient care – that way the doc can see more patients (improving corporation bottom line)The management determines how many patients they are to see each day.
    New healthcare mandates assign many duties to PA’s- It is supposed to lower health care costs but actually lowers overall patient care.
    The government and insurance companies are determining much of your health care by mandates and they set cost and their payment per visit (procedure/examination)
    Good nurses are hard to find and keep – burn out is high as more demands are made on them by mandates – supposedly to lower costs. Good Docs work hard to keep the good nurses – they know those nurses are on the front lines of patient care when they aren’t in the room – and a good one will relay concerns and problems. You’d also be surprised at how many absolutely horrid nurses are out there – but the nursing shortage is so bad the corp can’t fire them because there isn’t any one else. And yes, some Docs are really really upset and frustrated at the arrogance and stupidity of some of the nurses – it goes both ways.
    A surgeon’s day usually starts with hospital rounds around 5:30 am and ends 7-8pm – sometimes later if emergencies or a hospital patient develops problems. (Patients do not wish to be called that late – they want info as soon as available – but only one high level PA or nurse should call – I’ve gotten annoyed at the lack of accurate information from them also.).
    And of course the doc is on call at night and will do patient care/hospital rounds on weekends, too. Most know they must show up to make sure the hospital staff is following written orders – you’d be surprised how often they aren’t ( HINT: never have anyone in hospital without a family member or advocate always there keeping an eye on things and talking to doc to make things are done appropriately when medical staff changes shifts)
    There’s a great deal of corp/insurance paperwork which has to be done – by the doc, not staff.
    Docs I know are driving old 4 runners or older cars as they park in garages and people run into them all the time – without leaving a note or phone number.
    You have to remember med students (4 yrs) are paid nothing. The first few years of residency, new docs make less per hour than burger counter help – and they work 80-100 a week their entire residency. Residency is 4-5 years. Non-doc workers are building salaries and careers for 8 years before a doc even gets started (usually without the crushing medical school loans).
    You do know doctors have a very high rate of cancer? – Research is showing it’s the constant stress and lack of sleep and lack of regular meals throughout their lives.
    Most doctors and medical staff I know HATE the way things are going.
    Yes, Canada is even worse (I know some of those docs, too – some here and some in Canada).
    Most docs feel patients are going to get poor care….and it’s going to get worse.
    There’s a big number of doctors approaching retirement age – and there is no way enough will be trained in time…we are already facing shortages.
    Don’t get me started on the ER treatment. Hint: don’t go there. Ever.
    Another hint: do all you can to stay healthy.
    And for goodness sake – find a doctor/ medical group that cares. Rare, but it is urgent you find one.
    I totally understand your frustration and anger. It’s no fun being a patient these days
    But seriously – you are getting poorly treated. Don’t tolerate it. – Interview docs and find another group. Hopefully you can find one that is taking new patients.

    1. Thanks so much for your input on this topic. I agree that the broad brush is less appropriate than say a paint ball gun, when it comes to the practice of medicine, and yes, managed care, if we can call it care, is what we have to contend with right now. You are correct in your assessment of the corporate approach to medicine and ER treatment. I wouldn’t say these things if it hadn’t been my own experience. And yes, women everywhere should feel empowered to ask as many questions as they want and not be intimidated by arrogant doctors, legislators and HMOs. I absolutely believe that my health is my responsibility. I also believe that when I am unwell, I should be able to expect to be treated as a person. We all deserve that.

      1. I always enjoy your blog.
        It’s hard to believe anyone or anything can intimidate you.
        The medical care system is bad – and going to get worse. I know exactly what you are talking about. We’ve had to get very assertive. We have a good doc who took over from the one that retired, but the office staff/PAs/nurses are still a nightmare.
        Please try to find a doc you trust – sadly you may be stuck with an HMO approved doc list – bad news ( those docs are really under pressure and often not first choice)
        One thing, whenever seeking medical attention, always ask he/she where they got their training and did their residency. Always ask when he/she ate last – and what did they eat ( granola bar is hardly eating) and when did he/she get sleep: how many hours uninterrupted. We’ve found this is critical information for your care. Always remember if the doc is an intern, or a resident you are within your rights to ask for an attending physician. (Fellows are just under attendings and generally ok if they seem to be listening and are awake). Operating in the current system isn’t fun – especially if you are sick. HAng in there

  11. Boy, ain’t it the truth! I have been fortunate to have a long-time doctor that even recalled what I was in for the last time on each visit. I could always get in to see him on the same day I called, he listened to my concerns and was an excellent care provider. He retired earlier this year. I miss that level of care terribly.

  12. Oh wow. I love this! Spot on dear lady! Spot on!! (I”m talking for Canada too, because despite the rumor, we have the same exact problems with drs!)

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