This morning, while scrolling through social media, I encountered a resounding theme. Multiple physicians posting about being challenged, disrespected, and made to feel worthless by the very people they were trying to help: their patients. Being brought to tears by the disrespect of the patient’s family members. Physician expertise blatantly questioned. Advice ignored.
Patients telling doctors – to their faces – that they “don’t like their tone” and then telling nurses they don’t like “that doctor.”
ICU patients in rural hospitals; being cared for by stressed and tired nurses that usually care for much less critically ill high acuity patients.
Overworked, exhausted physicians and nurses doing their best to stay afloat, strapped for resources, yet rising to the challenge of caring for these extremely sick patients.
Repeatedly donning and doffing PPE, putting their own lives at risk, pushing themselves harder and harder – not sleeping, not eating, waiting to empty their bladders, or take the time to defecate.
Unable to transfer patients to hospitals better equipped in caring for such fragile ICU patients – because there are no beds available throughout our state or in surrounding states.
Yelled at. Questioned. Challenged. Care refused.
Told, “I read that … and so and so says, and, well I heard, and I Googled, and I don’t believe in, and I’m not going to do that”, and the infamous all-time favorite: “I did my research.”
Physicians filled with trepidation at the start of their shift, knowing that they have extremely ill fragile ICU patients in addition to all of the patients in the ER and throughout the entire hospital.
Yet, we continue to show up. Report to our shifts. Take call. Drop our kids off at school/daycare so that we may take care of the needs of others. We miss birthdays, holidays, school plays, sporting events, and dinners. All too often, we sacrifice ourselves, our health, and our well-being to honor the oath we all took as we became physicians.
To every single physician that continues to show up and care for patients during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, now and in the future, I want you to hear and remember the following:
You are the physician. It’s your license, your education, and your responsibility to care for patients in the best way possible – and if they disagree – tough! You’re the expert, not them. It’s not your fault they’re in this situation.
You make the decisions, period.
You do not have to accept that behavior from anyone.
Strongly, yet very sweetly, state: “This is what is best for your care, and this is what is happening.” Done. It’s not a question. It’s a plain and simple fact. Standard of care requires you to be transferred.
We – as physicians– make the medical decisions. It’s non-negotiable.
I’m so tired of others questioning, discounting, and challenging our expertise while at the same time playing on our altruism, knowing that we’ll care for them no matter what. Meanwhile, we’re exhausted, overworked, stretched to the limits, putting our own lives at risk daily. And for what?
To be disparaged, questioned, challenged, and disrespected?
It’s time we embrace our expertise, demand respect, and set boundaries. It’s time for all of us to stop being pawns in a game we were never asked if we wanted to play.
And huge hugs to every single one of you. You deserve better.
You are worthy of respect, love, and to have your orders followed appropriately. I’ve got your backs, and I hope you’ll always have mine. Individually we are powerful. Together we are unstoppable.
Honor your oath. Set boundaries. Demand respect.
Christina Dewey is a pediatrician.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com