8 reasons why I love my patients

A few months ago, I came out with a post on why I love my own doctor. Today I want to celebrate my patients, both past and present.  For me, without the experience I have had over the past 14 years, I would not have enjoyed medicine quite as much as I do.

What I like the most about medicine is the ability to interact with people. That’s what clinical medicine is all about. Interacting and communicating. Even though for the most part, the interaction is due to an ailment or health problem, it has given me the opportunity to learn a lot, not only about my patients but also about myself.

Below are 8 reasons why I love my patients and the lessons they have taught me.

1. They have taught me to trust. This is what an effective doctor patient relationship is built upon. When my patients sign up to see me, they are telling me that they trust my knowledge, judgment, experience and ability to manage their care effectively. Patients share the deepest parts of their lives with their doctors. I appreciate that and it is something I do not take lightly. As they trust me and as we build the relationship, the trust becomes reciprocal. I trust them to be truthful and honest, follow through on the instructions given and we become a team.

2. They have taught me to be a good listener.  The exam room is one of the best places I know to sharpen your listening skills. With the pressure to rush the patient visits, sometimes, it take everything in me to sit still and really focus on what the patient is saying. It is in those still moments of listening that I am often able to determine the truediagnosis in a patient. And it does not take more time or prolong the visit.

3. They have taught me patience. Patience in 2 ways. Firstly the patience a sick patient has to wait for me when I am running late and when I do finally make it in to see them, they are just so appreciative that I am there to see them. Secondly, the patience I have been taught in taking time to sit, interact and dialogue with my patients. It is this patience that I have learned that actually turns around and saves me time.

4. They have taught me about individual uniqueness. Indeed, no 2 patients are alike. Not at all. There is no one size fits all. I have had to look at each of my patients as unique. It is when I recognized this uniqueness that I was  able to gain their trust, treat them (each with respect), and watch them change their health for the better regardless of their race, gender or socioeconomic class.

5.  They have taught me to be a role model. I am a firm believer of like Doctor, like Patient. Not only do I instruct and educate my patients but I have to also do what I instruct and educate them on especially when it come to lifestyle kind of stuff. Diet, exercise, weight control etc. As time goes on, the sort of doctor you are begins to show in the sort of patient you have and attract. I notice that the doctors that take their time with their patients don’t have so many calls or as many problems with their patients. If your visits are whirlwind in and out visits, then you will keep having problem patients that keep that whirlwind going. I have to work on my attitude towards my patients, maintain a positive outlook even though the nature of the profession can tend towards the negative because of peoples health problems.  I have to focus on better health outcomes and keep motivating my patients to do better. What I eventually see is my patients becoming what I envision them to be.

6. They have taught me to put in extra effort. This point is particularly near and dear to me. In recent times I have required a certain patient of mine to see me weekly because of the multitude of problems she had, which continued to build the longer the interval time between visits. The particular patient despite not feeling well kept her weekly appointments where we addressed problem after problem. Now she is much better and actually tells me the time interval she thinks she can go before her next visit. During that specified time interval there have been no calls or emergencies and she is doing better. She gets an A plus for putting that extra effort into improving and that she is!

7.  They have taught me about being teachable. Sometimes physicians can expect very little out of their patients. They can’t quit smoking, they can’t exercise, they can’t eat right, they are non compliant etc. Despite all the cants, I have had some great success stories. I never want to assume that my patient’s aren’t listening or not hearing me. Right now may not be the time or place but as long as I keep believing the best about and for them, a lot of times, they come in with pleasant surprises. “Oh, I quit smoking since our last visit.” “I lost 15 pounds since our last visit through exercising and watching what I eat!” “I have been checking my blood sugars daily since our last visit”. They are absorbing what the doctor says.

8.   They have taught me about being appreciative. My patients are one appreciative bunch! They truly are grateful that I can: be their doctor, see them at short notice, review their labs with them, review all their medications with them, allow them to the ask questions, listen to them, educate them, counsel them….and the list goes on and on.

Being a physician can one of the most challenging of occupations, but also can be one of the most rewarding and gratifying.  So it is for me and I have my patients to THANK for this.

Omada Idachaba is an internal medicine physician who blogs at her self-titled site, Omada Idachaba, MD.

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