One of the strange things about being a doctor is that I play a lot of different roles, and I don't mean administrator or physician or teacher or whatever. I mean that when I meet a patient for the first time, I try to figure out what they need me to be. Some patients need me to be a listener. Some need me to be a father. Some need me to be a counselor. Every patient needs something a little different.
One of my patients is a university professor, and what he wants from me is advice about the stuff he reads about health. Is there any truth to coenzyme Q10? Is Atkins a good idea? He doesn't want me to tell him what to do, just give him some advice.
Another patient has no clue. She comes to me without any idea of what to do next. You need to lose 10 lbs. You should cut out fried foods. When you can't breathe, you should use your inhaler. I saw one person who just wanted reassurance. He knew and I knew that he was healthy, but he needed to hear it from me. Another needed me to boss him around.
The strange thing is that I am simply me. I don't try to act like someone I'm not. And somehow, that's enough. I think that the quality that lets me do this effectively is that I don't need to be in the driver's seat of the patient-physician relationship. Tell me what you need me to be.