If you’re reading this blog post it’s because the post title has drawn your attention and that was my intention. Why? Because I think that what I’ll talk about in this post is something you might find interesting and will help you to self-analyse, if you are a physiotherapist or other health professional. If you’re a patient, I’m sure you have been a patient at some point , you might find this familiar.
Have you ever heard the typical “the grumpy doctor did not even listen to me for five minutes”, “my physio is not nice at all, he tells me off all the time”, “I’m tired of being told that my problem is age”among other things?
I will analyse the situations above-mentioned one by one and at the end I will explain to you, based on scientific evidence, why you are right when complaining about having lived these very unpleasant and frustrating moments.
“The grumpy doctor did not even listen to me for five minutes”
I always like to explain everything with examples and this time it’s a personal experience, unfortunately I have frequented different medical practices for years (for whatever reasons). As I always try to be positive, I believe that this is a good thing, because now I can share my experience with you. Well, let´s get to the point:
Appointment with my GP, 5 September 2005, time 5:28pm (back in Spain). The 5:28pm stuff made me smile, it surely has an explanation, but it sounds like a joke to me. The doctor was new to me, so I went to my appointment crossing my fingers, hoping to be lucky and that a good doctor was assigned to me (I think we all have the same thoughts before our first GP appointment). The fingers-crossed stuff did not help. Summary of my appointment in few lines:
– Good evening!
– Uh! (this is the noise that the doctor produced, without even looking at me, I interpreted it as “hello”)
– I am here because I have got mononucleosis (kissing disease, although in my case there was no kissing involved, I guess it was something else) and…
– … yo want me to sign you off work (see photo on the right hand side to see the doctor’s face when he said this, without the cigar though).
– Actually, I am here for exactly the opposite reason, I was signed off work two weeks ago (without asking for it and I get bored being at home) because apparently it is the right think to do (because of all that health and safety stuff) to prevent my colleagues from catching the disease.
– Uh! (this time I guess he meant “okay”)
I was discharged then and he got up looking at me with a “we are done” sort of face. Time 5:31pm, my thoughts”grrrr” .
Health professionals in general and physios in particular, listen to me carefully, we studied a health profession to help people feel better. Do you think that five or fifteen-minute consultation and a grumpy dwarf face are the way to make patients feel better? More than one person needs to study a bit of psychology or emotional intelligence and live the situation told, as a patient, a couple of times to understand what I’m talking about. I understand that in the public health system everything has to be fast due to the huge amount of patients and the short amount of health professionals, but smiling is free and takes one second.
“My physio is not nice at all, he tells me off all the time”
This example is based on real events, it is not a personal one, but one of those “someone told me …”:
– Hey, Mary. How is your neck?
– Well, I’m having physio weekly.
– Are you feeling any better?
– Well, not much. In fact, I don´t know if I’m doing the exercises that the physio gave me right and I’m afraid to ask him, because every time I do so, he barks “you should know them by now”. So I’m thinking of leaving the treatment and start taking the pills the doctor prescribed me, although they often cause me stomach discomfort.
Physios, patience is the mother of science and also a health professional´s essential quality. Let’s be a bit nicer and think that patients do not forget the exercises for fun, remember that they just want to get better. Being kind and patient is the basis of all good treatment.
“I’m tired of being told that my problem is age”
I’ve heard this million times and I try to avoid saying it at all costs.
Doctors, physiotherapists, nurses and so on, the elderly already know they are old, it is not necessary you remind them this all the time. Yes, sometimes you might think that the elderly are a bit tiring. Think what you would do in their place, with chronic pain, among other issues. Remember that neither “pain” nor “age” are diagnosis. Our aim here is to try and improve their quality of life, even if the room for improvement is very narrow, I do believe that everything is improvable. They are only looking for help, they do not need to be told what they already know. A sincere smile and kindness often help.
You’re probably thinking “but if I’m a good physio, as I am very knowledgeable, I will help the person in the same way, “. I always say that good manners and kindness are the best possible treatment, if you are also very knowledgeable when it comes to your profession, then you will be close to perfection (maybe this is a bit of an exaggeration) and you should be proud of yourself.
This is a study by John M Kelley et al. about the placebo effect that I would like you to have a look at, as it is the scientific proof showing that good interaction (warmth and empathy) between physio/doctor and patient is essential.
Now, imagine that these faces are the faces of two physios, which one would you choose for your treatment?
As always, I will be happy to receive comments about your experiences and/or opinions.
In addition, you always have the option to contact me on The Physical Therapy Southampton for further information or in case you have any doubts.
Also, follow the link Trato por encima de tratamiento to read the Spanish version.