Difficult patients

I am often told that I have a lot of 'difficult patients', which is code for other doctors hate them. Sometimes, I agree with this assessment. Not all of my patients are the nicest people. However, it's also disappointing to know that a lot of folks I see are labeled as difficult because they want to be involved in their own care. And I think it's shameful that we discourage that.

I had a patient say to me last week something very nice: 'You're my favorite doctor because you always tell me things honestly and straightforward. I can trust you.'

It is a nice compliment to me, but such a sour turn on the profession. The default used to be that physicians deserved to be trusted, whether we deserved it or not. Now, a doctor is viewed as special because of such a basic piece of human interaction.

11 comments:

Altoidsjedi said...

Hey Dr. Ifinding,

Thanks for this blog! I've been waiting for another post since I first discovered it in August. I'm a new californian pre-med/poli-sci student (Hope to go into IM and possibly Oncology), and i love the honest perspective you give us on the life of a doctor. PLEASE, could you post more often?

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

your blog is amazing, i have been checking every few days for a new post for a few months now... hope you post more in the near future!

from Vancouver, Canada.

cardiactamponade said...

In my rather limited experience, I find that some patients cannot accept the truth. To them I am too straightforward. It depends on the person I suppose. It takes a special kind of person to be willing to accept advice from a straightforward doctor.

Anonymous said...

I've read your blog since I was a lowly first-year undergrad, and now I'm a second-year medical student. I just wanted to say thanks for posting and sharing. I've learned a lot about medicine, and about life in general from you.

Take care!

Reluctantmd said...

Just found your blog...LOVE!!!!! Thanks for eloquently communicating what it is really like to be a physician. Hope you continue to post.

Nurse and Hospital Stories said...

We cannot control such patients since many of them have the knowledge that some doctors tend to be less honest with them. Many of the difficult patients indeed, are the patients who want to know more about their health and situation. It's just that there are many medical practitioners that are too busy to mind their patients' queries, eh.


Thanks for the share,
Peny@uniform scrubs

Anonymous said...

I had been in 2 prqactices with difficult patient population. And on almost daily basis heard my colleagues specialist say, they hate seeing "my" difficult patient (s). While you bask in self content due to poraise from one patient, please, remember that some of the people we serve are abusive. I have been called names, I have been personally picked on, I could not believe peoeple could say things to me that they said. How can they think its OK? And not only MD's suffer. In my old office patient waited "too long" because MD was catering to other "difficult patients" and she decided wait was due to receptionist not informing doctor she was here. She gave a heated talk to that receptionist, and felt it was not enough. When she saw receptionist went to the BR, she followed. She physically attacked receptionist in the BR. You probably think employer was on the side of poor receptionist. Not at all. She cried alone in the break room. That place was all about "customer care". People do not treat doctors or any other service providers with respect anymore. As a result, they should not have their hopes too high.

incidental findings said...

Regarding anon comment above:
I think we would all agree that the patients you have described are not difficult, but abusive. There are many situations that I tolerate, but I do not tolerate verbal abuse of staff. Physical abuse should be reported to police. And yes, I have called the police on a patient before.

The difficult patients I am describing are those who 'ask too many questions' or are 'non-compliant'.

Anonymous said...

Please come back, Dr Ifindings!

Kelvin said...

I wish your blog could be made into a book so I can read it wherever I go... Reading the honest heartbreaking moments are incredibly moving and I'm grateful you shared it with us. It makes me realize how small my pre-med life is when compared to the split-second decisions to treatment and the eventual acceptance of death that doctors must make everyday... Even though you've stopped blogging for a while, I hope that wherever you are, you're enjoying your career and still showing that compassion we've all seen in your posts.

Beautiful Baskets by Labella said...

I have really enjoyed reading your Difficult Patients entry. Right now I am going through diagnosing an issue with a pineal lesion. Human interaction is very important when working with the doctor. That is so very true and I have never realized that ever before in my life as I realize it now. That is also why I am looking for another doctor at this time. Thanks for sharing.