This blogpost was inspired by One Woman’s Quest who wrote in response to my blog Profit or Prophet: Stick to your ideals! 25 people is more than enough, but 50? How is that supposed to be helpful? My doctor refuses to overwhelm herself and her patients by pushing the numbers and we patients are very appreciative.
What happens when you don’t see 50 patients a day?
People get pissed.
You don’t have any appointments left? I can’t be seen today? Can’t you just squeeze me in? Well, then, I ‘ll just have to find another doctor.
OK. Bye Felicia.
You won’t like me if I see 50 patients a day. You won’t like me AT ALL. I won’t be the same person. I won’t be the same doctor. I won’t have time to listen to you. I won’t have the capacity to give a shit about your grandkids, your pet bird, the death of your mother last week, how your husband cheated on you, your kid getting into college. Nope. Don’t tell me anything.
Just the facts. Where does it hurt? Doesn’t matter that you haven’t slept in weeks because they are going to foreclose on your house. I don’t have time for that. How long has it hurt? What have you taken for the pain? OK try this, call me if you’re not better. NEXT.
Consider a lifeboat. There’s been a shipwreck. The lifeboat can save lives. Until it is overcrowded and people are scrambling to get in, they topple it over, overwhelm it, water enters, the lifeboat starts to sink, and everyone is screwed. The life raft saves lives when it is not overwhelmed, once it is, all bets are off.
I am sure a robot/computer/cyborg could do a better job than me. It could be programmed with all of the latest/greatest medical knowledge, perform around the clock for millennia. It could see 50 patients a day easily. No problem. It would never tire. It would never need to have a lunch break, a bathroom break, it never gets sick, it never runs late, it doesn’t have to take its kids to basketball practice. It would only consider the facts. There would be no room for art. The art of medicine.
Art takes time. Art needs to be considered. All the aspects of a person’s life contribute to their well-being, I need to know the factors that could be contributing to their ailment. Your blood sugar is too high because you can’t afford the right foods? You can’t afford the right foods because you lost your job? I need to know that. It matters. It changes the treatment. It changes my approach.
If I am overwhelmed, truly overwhelmed, the human part of me begins to get angry, bitter, resentful. I start to express those feelings to those that are overwhelming me. I start to treat my patients differently. That part of me that they love and seek out because I care about them, starts to die. I no longer give a shit. I no longer care. And that’s dangerous. I can still do my job, but that’s just what it will become, a job. Not a career. A work of art. A mission. A purpose. A joy. A life’s work. Something to be proud of.
It will just be a shitty job, with shitty patients, who only give a shit if they get what they want from me.
So if you can’t get an appointment with me the instant that you want it, be grateful. Be patient. Know that I am doing what I can for who I can while preserving that thing that makes me –me. Know that I will be the doctor that you have come to love and trust because I get to take my time with you, too, when it’s your turn.
I think I’m worth waiting for 🙂