3 easy ways for doctors to respect patients

One of my professors teaches psychology, but he was hired as a “generalist” meaning that he has no area of specialization when he’s teaching. He ends up with all the 101 classes. And I love that. Trained as a biopsychologist, he’s now known as a clinical psychologist and is one of the best in the area.

As I walked into the class the first day and he was going over standard introductions and the introduction of his syllabus, he told us that he had one rule. If we respected him, he would respect us. But is that really true everywhere? Naturally, my thoughts turned to healthcare, and I came up with 3 easy ways for doctors to respect patients and for patients to respect doctors.  Even better, they all begin with the letter R!

Reason is something that is hard for any relationship, professional or personal, to achieve, but in the doctor-patient relationship, this concept tends to go really far. If you’re a patient and you’ve brought evidence of Google research to your doctor, he/she should be able to reason with you to find information that fits your needs and is accurate depending on your particular situation. As patients, we should be willing to reason with our providers enough to find the difference between the accurate and inaccurate information.

Reliability is an “every day all day” skill for most people, but in the doctor-patient relationship, we see the principle manifested in many different ways.  They include dependency and punctuality when it comes to the doctor and the patient, reliability in terms of education and knowledge, again on the part of both patient and doctor, and reliability in terms of care. There are ways that you can care for your doctor as a patient, just as doctors care for us as patients. More on that in the future. Reliability is one of those things that can make or break reason, respect, and so many other principles that it is arguably the most important element to the doctor-patient rapport, in my opinion.

Risks don’t involve risking your life. In fact, most often, in a healthy doctor-patient relationship, neither party feels as though their lives are in danger at any point in time. Therefore, risks in this case indicate trust. It means that though a doctor may admit to the knowledge that he doesn’t have, you might be taking a “risk” or leap of faith to ask a second or third opinion. Similarly, on the part of the doctor, he or she is sometimes running a risk of  patients being able to see all of the negative side effects of a specific medication and then coming in to ask questions. But really, that’s a healthy risk. It’s wonderful to know that patients like myself are eager to engage with health and healthcare professionals to improve its current state.

Erin Breedlove is a college student with cerebral palsy who blogs at Healthy, Unwealthy, and Becoming Wise.

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