Close-ups

A Patient's Perspective

Canning Season

Am Fam Physician. 2008 May 15;77(10):1402.

When I first started going to my doctor's practice, I would greet the office staff and occasionally bring in baked goods. Then, one time when I needed an appointment, I mentioned that August was not a good time. It was canning season and I was going to be busy. My doctor said, “Oh! That sounds interesting. How do you do it?” I said, “Well, if you want to know, come over and we'll teach you!” Next Saturday, the doorbell rang and my husband answered it. It was my doctor in his work clothes! We had so much to do that he ended up being a really big help. Through this activity, my doctor got to know who I am.

We have been building our relationship for more than 15 years. I've had a lot of medical problems: a broken hip, a blood clot, bypass surgery, shingles. When my doctor comes into the room he always breaks the ice by greeting me and giving me a light touch. He asks how I am doing and is interested in who I am as a person. He'll take my hand and say, “We're going to take care of this.” He has given me his home number because he knows I won't abuse it. He shares things with me about his interests and his life. I don't feel like a number or a copay. I get more than just a prescription and a bill. He treats me as he would treat his own mother.

I have a lot of faith in my doctor. Why can't all doctors have that level of compassion for their patients? Don't they learn that in medical school?—m.s.e.

COMMENTARY

The physician-patient relationship does not get much value in today's money-managed medical environment. I was glad M.S.E. shared her background and experiences with me—including the process of making sauerkraut, which I experienced with her firsthand. (It occurred to me while shredding cabbage in M.S.E.'s basement that “kraut” is the sound of cabbage being shredded. What a curious discovery, and it tasted great!) I believe a caring, trusting relationship is fundamental to the practice of medicine. Without this, a lot of flavor is lost.

RESOURCES

Doctor-patient communication has a real impact on health. Science Daily. April 10, 2007. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070409144754.htm. Accessed October 12, 2007.

Doctor-patient communication: when things go wrong. Medical College of Wisconsin HealthLink. http://healthlink.mcw.edu/article/1031002495.html. Accessed October 12, 2007.

Hicks R. Doctor-patient communication. BBC Health. February 2007. http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/talking_to_your_doctor/gp_communication.shtml. Accessed October 12, 2007.

Houghton A, Allen J. Understanding personality type: doctor-patient communication. BMJ Career Focus. 2005;330:36–37. http://careerfocus.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/330/7484/36. Accessed October 12, 2007.

Ong LM, de Haes JC, Hoos AM, Lammes FB. Doctor-patient communication: a review of the literature. Soc Sci Med. 1995;40(7):903–918.

Teutsch C. Patient-doctor communication. Med Clin North Am. 2003;87(5):1115–1145.

University of Pittsburgh Institute for Doctor-Patient Communication. (http://www.dgim.pitt.edu/idpc)

Close-ups is coordinated by Caroline Wellbery, MD, associate deputy editor, with assistance from Amy Crawford-Faucher, MD, Tony Miksanek, MD, and Jo-Marie Reilly, MD. Questions about this department may be sent to Dr. Wellbery at wellberc@georgetown.edu.

The editors of AFP welcome submissions for Close-ups. Guidelines for contributing to this feature can be found in the Authors' Guide at http://www.aafp.org/afp/authors.


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