Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dear Doctors: "It feels good to laugh and cry!"

This was the experience of a Psychologist at Stanford after going under hypnosis and going through an activity to tear down the walls of time. "Phil further realized that the world of academia suppresses the public show of emotion in favor of cool rationality." (The Time Paradox, Philip Lombardo) THIS is what I believe is wrong with the medical profession. And I believe it can be improved.

If you're not allowed to laugh and cry, then every interaction with another human being is about keeping distance. This is not conducive to building relationships. Every medical professional is so serious that out of the scores of doctors I've had, only two I know of cracked a joke or a smile. Heck, if a doctor just acted like he was happy to meet me, that would be a HUGE improvement to patient-doctor relations.

But so often doctors think they have to maintain this stodgy air of sophistication and learning as part of their professional persona. That is alienating to me as a patient, and frankly when you stand on that pedestal, it means there's a long way to fall.

Can we bring customer service to the doctor's visit, please? It's actually a skill that needs to be learned. There's a special way of going into the present moment, setting all worries aside, and greeting a person like they're an old friend, regardless of what baggage they carry through the door. That is customer service.

I had to learn it several ways for dealing with all sorts of customers (tentative, egocentric, angry, hostile, etc.). It's not something that comes naturally just by being a good person. It's doesn't come with "breeding" or manners, either. Law School is one case where they are hostile towards you and you have to remain calm and polite, so that you can learn to keep your cool with a hostile judge. It's a skill.

I think if we brought the laughter and tears back... If we allowed doctors to step down from those pedestals and be human... If they weren't forced by a culture of professionalism to be aloof... If we instructed our doctors in customer service... Perhaps then we could see the doctor-patient relationship improve across the board for all specialties and practices.

Here's to the dream... ;^)

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