Bedside Manner: Five Stupid Things My Doctors Have Done

Bedside Manner: Five Stupid Things My Doctors Have Done

In my support groups, online and face-to-face, we talk about everything from our fears and anxieties to our jobs and children. We worry, complain, cry, advise, console, and question. Not surprisingly we talk a lot about our doctors, and let me tell you, we have a lot to talk about. A doc’s bedside manner means the world.

Most of us like our docs and feel quite beholden to them, but we all have stories to tell about the ones we’d like to forget. Frankly, I think we all need to talk about our doctors a lot more. In the past seven months, I have worked with nine different doctors, not including the radiologists and pathologists whose names I don’t know or remember and whose faces I’ve never seen. They’re only people, and we need to remember that. It’s hard to find a good fit, but it’s critical when your life depends on their judgment.

In any case, some of my doctors have done some stupid things. Here are five stupid things.

1. After almost passing out in a doc’s office, he left me in the examine room alone and said, “Stay as long as you’d like, but I need to go.”

I began having a persistent pain in my knee in June. In August I was diagnosed with cancer. One you get a diagnosis of cancer, every pain in your body sets off alarms. The pain in my knee was persistent, and in October I felt I had to see an orthopedic specialist to rule out bone cancer. The pain was garden-variety, middle-aged arthritis. The doctor gave me a steroid injection in the knee, which hurt like hell. Within a few moments I felt dizzy and sick to my stomach and was pretty sure I was going to pass out. So, I laid down on the examining table. He stayed long enough to dictate some notes and then, looking bored and uncomfortable, said “Stay as long as you’d like, but I need to go.” No one came to check on me, so for the follow-up appointment, I asked to see another doc….

 2. Doctor #2 was unhappy that I had a list of questions and said, “No, we’re doing this my way.” He then took my notebook with the questions out of my hand and put it out of my reach.

3. Despite the fact that my diagnosis was arthritis, Doctor #2 refused to treat me until I had a complete bone scan to rule out “metastases.” That was the first time I’d heard the “m” word in connection with my diagnosis. When I told him that my cancer was early stage, he assured me that no one could guarantee that and that he wanted to see a complete bone scan.

4.  A surgeon told me I had cancer just as I was being prepped for what I thought was a routine test. Instead, he informed me, I was having a tumor removed surgically.

When I was in the hospital being treated for an infection (and had not yet been diagnosed with cancer) I was told that I needed a cystoscopy, which is a scope used to look into the bladder. It is an invasive but routine test. My urologist was not there to do the procedure, but his partner was. He refused to come to my hospital room to describe the procedure and when they took me downstairs I realized I was being taken to an operating room. An anesthesiologist greeted me and asked me to sign a consent form. I insisted on seeing the doctor, whom I’d never met before, and he told me I had cancer and that he would be removing the tumor. I was alone in a OR prep area without my family and had not been told before that moment that I had a tumor or that it was cancer.

 5. The same surgeon defended his approach based on his extremely busy case load. This was an efficient way of dealing with the matter, he told me. As I sobbed and said, “You have no idea what this is like,” he responded, “Oh I’ve been much sicker than you are.”

Thankfully, none of these individuals are part of my life anymore, and I’m very grateful to have both a primary physician and a urologist/surgeon that I trust, literally, with my life. They have both given me time and respect, excellent care and insight.


So, do you have a good “stupid things my doctor has done” story?

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