The Doctor Diaries: What Physicians Wish Patients Knew

Revelations about weight loss, medical information on the internet, and more

Friendly doctor reassuring an elderly woman.

Joanne Jarrett, M.D., polled dozens of doctors to find out what they’d tell you if only they could, and here are the results…

We are working on your case, even if it looks like we have disappeared.

Physicians often forget how scary being in the hospital can be. Rest assured that when the doctor is not at your bedside, he or she is writing up your evaluation, the plan and the orders outlining what needs to be done for you, all the while checking for test results and recalculating the diagnosis and plan. You may not see him or her until the next day, but your doctor or the physician on call is available by phone continuously to address your concerns.

When we keep you waiting, it’s not because we think our time is more valuable than yours.

But if the patient before you mentions blood in his or her stool or talks about suicidal impulses, your appointment needs to wait. Your best bet is to schedule the first appointment of the day.

We need complete honesty from you.

This means telling us what drugs you’ve taken, legal and illegal, so we can help you avoid interactions. It means answering honestly about sexual function and behavior, even if you fear we wouldn’t approve. We think no less of patients who struggle with mental or emotional issues.

We know lifestyle change is hard and boring.

We try and fail often ourselves. But sometimes diet, exercise and/or alcohol abstinence really are the best treatments.

Many of us have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

I have nightmares about patients down an infinite hall, each with a problem worse than the last. In my short career, I’ve seen a baby take her last breaths. I’ve watched a woman, bleeding uncontrollably after giving birth, lose consciousness as I worked, a pool of her blood expanding at my feet. I’ve heard a woman, after having both legs traumatically severed, saying goodbye to her father, assuming she wouldn’t survive. I could go on. We know we signed up for it. But keep in mind, when you’re tempted to be angry with your doctor, that we are under stress, too.

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