When you do the right thing, you become a better doctor

There are times when it is necessary to step up to the plate and go the extra mile on behalf of your patients.  There is no job description for doing this and there is no manual that gives you instructions on what action you need to take on behalf of your patients.  However, when you have the opportunity to do the right thing, at the right time and for the right reason, you become a better doctor and you have a sense of gratification and satisfaction that makes the practice of medicine so much more enjoyable.  Let me share two stories and two examples.

The device is on back order

I had a patient who was to have surgery in a few days but the device that was to be implanted was on back order and there were no devices in the hospital’s inventory.  My nurse called to tell the patient and suggested cancelling the case until we could get the device.  The patient requested that I give him a call as he would like to speak with me.  He told me that he was a janitor and that he had requested time off of work and that the employer brought in another janitor to take his place.  He said that cancelling the case would be a terrible inconvenience and that he would probably have to defer the surgery for nearly a year.

I told him I would make every effort to find a device so we could proceed with the surgery.  I called the local vendor who was on vacation and explained the patient’s situation.  I asked him to call around the country and find a device and have it FedEx’ed to New Orleans so we could proceed with the scheduled surgery.  Several hours later he called that another hospital had a single device in their inventory and they would agree to allow us to use it.  Our hospital’s OR materials manager called and gave the request and agreed to send a courier to the hospital which was 75 miles away and pick up the device which was in our hospital ready for the surgery.  I called to tell the patient and he was just elated that we could proceed as scheduled.  He was so complimentary to me for getting involved and to the medical manufacturing company for reaching out to find a device, and to our hospital who made the effort to transfer the device.

Certainly it would be easy to cancel the case but this would have occurred at a great inconvenience to the patient, his family, and his employer.

The patient who fainted in the office

An elderly patient received an injection in the office and had a vasovagal reaction.  We placed him in the supine position, elevated his lower extremities, and gave him some orange juice which normalized his blood pressure.  The patient was clearly weak and unstable.  He had driven to the office and was about to leave to drive home.  I didn’t feel it was safe to let him drive his car.  I asked if he had a family member who could come to the office and take him home.  The options were to call a taxi for him or for me to take him home in his car.

It was the end of the day so I opted for the latter.  I took him home and one of my staff followed me and brought me back to the office.  The whole process took about 30 minutes.  The patient was so effusive and appreciative about this gesture.  There was every likelihood that he would make it home driving himself.  However, how terrible would I have felt if the patient got into an accident and hurt himself or hurt others?

Again, this was an action that advocated on behalf of the patient.  I believe it set an example for my staff that our practice would do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of our patients.

What’s the take home message?  Medicine affords us the luxury of helping others in so many ways beyond just diagnosing and treating diseases.  Advocating for your patients and protecting their safety are just two examples.

Neil Baum is a urologist at Touro Infirmary and author of Marketing Your Clinical Practices: Ethically, Effectively, Economically. He can be reached at his self-titled site, Neil Baum, MDor on Facebook and Twitter.

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