In today’s healthcare culture, patient satisfaction trumps patient safety. Providers are ranked online and put on display like Tinder for your selection. With social media exposure being the new “word of mouth,” sometimes its good to look at things from a different perspective:
1. Yes, we’re running late. We know this.
Perhaps one of the biggest complaints heard in doctor’s offices in every specialty is that the provider is running late. If I had a nickel for every time a patient said, “my time is just as valuable as yours or the doctors!” I could actually be able to pay off those student loans. Yes, we are running late. Yes, we are aware. No, it’s not because we don’t think your time is valuable. We want you to be able to discuss all the things you need to in your visit- because your time IS valuable, we want you to be able to make the most of your visit. Other times it’s because we have had to deliver devastating news to a patient, that requires a much longer than scheduled appointment. Maybe a hospital patient deteriorated overnight and the entire day’s schedule is shot, but we’re still trying to get to clinic to keep you from having to reschedule. One thing is for certain though: the more you complain about the schedule, the later we are going to be for the following patients.
2. Like every good relationship, trust must be the foundation.
I don’t know when or how it began, but there is a mounting distrust of medical professionals. If you don’t feel that your medical provider has your best interest at heart, why continue going to them? By all means, if there is something you aren’t quite sure of, just ask. A secure professional should not take questions as an attack. Instead of assuming a recommendation isn’t in your best interest, maybe ask for an explanation of why that test or medication is necessary. Open communication is necessary for trust on both parts.
3. Doctors are not the only providers capable of providing quality care.
The demand for providers is outgrowing the rate that trained physicians are available. What does that mean? Enter the nurse practitioner and physician assistant. Referred to as mid-level providers, physician extenders, or allied health professionals, NPs and PAs work in virtually every specialty as means to bridge the gap between the physician shortage and patient demand. Just because you may see the NP or PA instead of the physician during a visit, does not mean you are getting inferior care. Let me repeat that one more time for the cheap seats in the back: stop thinking of NPs and PAs as inferior. We are fellow healthcare providers. That means we we have additional degrees and years of training, along with board certifications and state and national licenses. We play crucial roles in your healthcare. NPs and PAs are trained to work as part of a multidisciplinary team with your doctor. And as the physician shortage increases, the utilization of physician extenders will be even more necessary and frequent. Its time to get comfortable seeing them.
4. We can’t care more about your well being than you do.
Not every provider is warm and fuzzy. Sometimes a little tough love is needed. The majority of the time it doesn’t mean we lack compassion or empathy. But caring for people who refuse to take accountability or responsibility gets old fast. Just because we tell you something you don’t want to hear (stop smoking! Lose weight! Quit eating crap! Take your freaking medication!) doesn’t mean we’re not rooting for you. We just want you to suck it up buttercup and start doing the things you know you need to do. We can’t make you better if you don’t want to make yourself better. If there were a magic wand to do this, I would have sold it and cashed in on that gravy train and be retired on a beach somewhere.
5. We’re people too.
Our superpower may be saving lives, but at the end of the day, we’re people too. We have families we see way too little of because of the hours our jobs demand. We take out absurd amounts of student loans and spend literally decades training for our roles. Few other fields require the same commitment as becoming a healthcare provider. That doesn’t give us a pass to do and act however we please, but it means, sometimes keep those things in mind and give us a little grace.
Bottom line: We chose careers to help and heal, but we’re not perfect. Just like everyone else, we’re doing our best.