4 things this family physician wants patients to know

Dear patients:

A few things come up daily in my office that need to be addressed. I’m just going to put these out there in the blogosphere in the hopes that someday they’ll be shared widely and save myself and other doctors a whole lot of hair-pulling (as an alternative to crowdfunding a Super Bowl ad).

1. Stop apologizing

So many people apologize out of habit for way too much (I’m guilty too), but these? Let them leave your mind. No more “I’m sorry” for the following:

a. Leg hair: I could care less if your legs are shaved. Not a bit. Not at all. Nor do other doctors. FYI, most of us docs also see men — know what? Men never say, “Sorry, I didn’t shave my [insert any body part],” when they come in to get checked out. You have enough to worry about and apologize for — let this one go.

b. Pubic hair: Same goes specifically for your choice of pubic hair management. There’s a whole large part of the population that wouldn’t ever consider waxing/shaving/electrolysis. And you know what? We feel fine about caring for them, too.

c. Bleeding: While we’re here — no apologizing for menstruating! We, physicians, have all seen blood before. Menstrual blood. Body blood. Birthing blood. All of the blood. It doesn’t faze us a bit — or we would have chosen another profession.

d. Tears: If you cry in my office, it’s because you need help and you do not need to apologize for those tears, ever. If you cry, it’s because you felt comfortable enough with me that you could open up about what is really bothering you. That is one of the greatest gifts to a primary care provider. That is my goal. No apologies for that.

2. Skip the exercise and diet excuses

The bottom line here is this: You can get an excellent workout in 12 minutes with high-intensity interval training, so I don’t want to hear, “I don’t have time.” Just shoot me straight, tell me where you are, and we’ll work from there.

Same deal with diet. As a physician, mom, wife, etc. I don’t have a lot of time to spend on my diet either. It’s about making the right choices, and I can help you with that part if you’re honest about where you are with it now.

3. A picture is worth 1,000 words

If you have a rash that comes and goes — take a picture! If your kid is walking funny but only sometimes — video it. Your recollections and descriptions may or may not be useful to me, but those photos and videos usually are.

4. We have to do some agenda-setting

A list of all your questions/concerns is helpful for organizing what we do in your visit. However, you should know that, depending on where your provider works, they may have no choice in how long your appointment is. Many institutions do not allow us longer than 15 or 20 minutes, total — that includes the five minutes it takes you to check in and have vital signs done. So, while we for sure want to fix everything (trust me, that’s why we picked this job!), we just don’t have time. We have to choose some things for now and some for later.

Insurance also now regulates what can be done at physical or wellness visit, and most will not let us address problems, only preventive care at those appointments. It is not our choice. We can’t change the coding, or we could lose our licenses. Talk to your lawmakers about this. Give your health care providers some slack.

Thanks for listening; now our visits can be so much more streamlined. So what brings you in today?

Annie Ray is a family physician.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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