Patients are doubly screwed by the malpractice system Part 3 of a series.  Read part 1 and part 2. The aspect of malpractice suits that lawyers seem congenitally unable to understand is how devastating it is. "Ho hum," says a lawyer who read my first two posts in this series. "Get out the violins." It's as if, because I make my living operating on ...

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Students undergo a conversion in the third year of medical school: not “pre-clinical” to “clinical,” but “pre-cynical” to “cynical.” — Abraham Verghese, MD The scalpel hovered over the swollen, red and inflamed mass peeking through the opening in the sterile drapes. The patient lay on her side facing away from us, clutching the stiff emergency room pillow against her face and moaning as she rocked back-and-forth. Whenever the surgeon manipulated the mass, ...

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What is a pickup basketball game? It involves players of varying skill levels forming a team on the fly and hoping to win the game. Often the players have some or no familiarity with each other or their skill levels. What is the analogy to surgery? Often, surgeons walk into an operating room and have to form teams with unfamiliar or unknown personnel, and teams may not be consistent. However, ...

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When is it right to share our personal struggles with patients? I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was 10 years old, dressed in kid pajamas with sleep still in my eyes. I walked upstairs with a sense of purpose. “I can’t take it anymore,” I told my parents. At that point it had been a year since we found the surgeon who was finally able to offer the chance ...

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Anesthesiology used to be a job that was attractive for people who don’t like patients very much.  The drill was: Meet patient 5 minutes before surgery, do case in OR without interruption, drop off in PACU, done.  Minimal need for personal interaction with patient, no need to listen to complaints about back pain and demands for antibiotics for a cold, no risk of getting called in the middle of the ...

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Fall in love with medicine againFall in love with medicine again An excerpt from Remedy for Burnout: 7 Prescriptions Doctors Use to Find Meaning in Medicine. A doctor’s self-worth can be tied up with a lot of issues. How well can we make a diagnosis? How elegantly can we perform the surgery? How happy are our patients? Our staffs? Our families? How many articles ...

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In September, Doximity, a closed online community of over 300,000 physicians, released its ratings of residency programs in nearly every specialty. Many, including me, took issue with the methodology. Emergency medicine societies met with Doximity's co-founder over the issue and echoed some of the comments I had made about the lack of objectivity and emphasis on reputation. I wonder if it is even possible to develop a set of valid ...

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Physician ratings reward doctors in narrow practice Admit it, we all do it. All physicians check their quality ratings on the various online sites. If the site allows comment, we read the comments. If we get a bad rating, we try to figure out who was the patient. Isn't that the chronic back pain patient who was addicted to painkillers and got mad at me because I wouldn't renew ...

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What I wish I knew: Advice for spouses of doctors and residents Residency life. I don't talk about it much, and that's on purpose. Here's why: My life is wonderful. I really love it. Is it perfect? No. Is anyone's life perfect? Definitely not. I would never wish to portray my life in a negative fashion and certainly not to wish for sympathy. I would talk about it in an informative way, but even ...

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Recently, NPR published the results of a study confirming that removal of both breasts (a double mastectomy) fails to improve the chance of survival compared to breast conserving treatments for breast cancer. The headline of the story was “Double Mastectomies Don't Yield Expected Results, Study Finds.” This finding is not actually news to informed physicians. Since the 1980s, there has been widespread recognition that both mastectomies and lumpectomies offer an ...

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