February 25, 2016
Me: Doctor, what do we do if the scan shows that I still have cancer or that the cancer has spread?
Doctor: I could have an accident on my way home today. Anything could happen.
Doctor: I’ll give you a call if anything shows up and then we can meet. But otherwise just make an appointment for 4 months from now, in May and I’ll see you then.
I wonder what the system does to doctors to make them so jaded and dismissive of their patients. This idea that somehow it is okay to respond to a genuine concern with sarcasm. Isn’t it a doctor’s duty to inform their patient? I would like to know what is going on with my cancer but there has to be a limit to how much I need to advocate for myself with my doctors. I don’t know if it’s too much to ask that I get a response and not just rely on the “no news is good news” philosophy. And what length of time is supposed to pass before I stop dreading a phone call and assume all is well. Is it not worth putting a phone call into the process to follow-up with me?
My scan is tomorrow so after that we’ll just have to wait and see.
About three months ago, I went in to see my family doctor with my list of about 5 issues (to make sure I wouldn’t forget them all). She said that unfortunately, she only gets 15 minutes with me and that we’re going to have to pick the top two. I’m going to have to make another appointment to see her again. She was genuinely sorry, especially considering that I am a new patients of hers with an arguably complex set of health problems. If I were in her position, I would be so frustrated with the system that required me to send a patient away knowing that I have not met even half their needs. So I keep making appointments and I keep seeing her and she keeps billing the government per appointment.
My recent, numerous experiences with the healthcare system have got me genuinely concerned about some of these professionals we entrust with our health. It seems like some of them aren’t able to do the jobs they signed up for.
I would be interested in hearing from those I know in these professions, especially from friends and colleagues just leaving school and entering this system.
Health care professionals have their own challenges that they need to navigate, but when this trickles down to patient level and into patient care, there really must be something wrong. If we truly want to put patients first, we need to think about those decisions that ultimately impact patients’ interactions with the healthcare system.
Someone recently complained to me about Toronto East General Hospital (TEGH) which is where I had my surgery and treatment. The complaint about the hospital also speaks to the funding that this hospital gets compared to others in Toronto. I got sent to TEGH initially because the surgeon had the earliest opening and my case was fairly urgent. However, there are people who are on wait lists to see doctors in other hospitals.
Regardless, my surgeon at TEGH has been great. The nurse at Medical Triage at TEGH who gave me my Thyrogen injections earlier this week was absolutely lovely. Smart, efficient and genuinely interested in me. She made the process a whole lot more entertaining with her banter. I am so relieved when I get such people in my hospital wanderings.
I have met good health care professionals i.e. those who know their stuff and also take the time to ensure that their patients have all their questions answered and feel confident with their situation. It is not an easy profession and I can appreciate that some doctors have more trouble than others with keeping their enthusiasm up and sarcasm at bay as they navigate their own struggles within the system.
As a patient, I will say this – having someone genuinely care for me or at least fake it really well is a wonderful feeling. I do not take it for granted.