What makes good doctors – 3 top qualities, from personal experience

I have known doctors and hospitals since the age of 1 year and 10 months, due to asthma and severe bronchitis. My memory keeps no record of the first prolonged stay in the Children’s Hospital in Timisoara, Romania. But I clearly remember the mixture of disappointment with resignation when I felt life draining out of my body at 22. 

With recent developments regarding my health, I took couple of trips to the main hospital in our area. I plan to vlog about what caused me a lot of trouble and discomfort over the last couple of years. Since 1 in 3 women suffer with fibroids, it feels like a necessary topic to approach, not only due to the clinical occurrence. According to this article in The Guardian, a significant number of women diagnosed with fibroids report on disturbing experiences as patients.

Having been diagnosed with mine more than 2 years ago, the recent hysteroscopy confirmed it needs to be surgically removed. But I want to talk about something else in this writing. I want to tell you about doctors.

What personal experience taught me about doctors

I wonder if, as a woman, one encounters more doctors than men do. If I think about women giving birth, than later in life developing fibroids, I’m inclined to consider this quite possible. All I can tell is that through the range of health issues I experienced, from tonsils removal to appendicitis, pneumonia, and norovirus (terrible!), I met quite a number of doctors. The best ones stick in my memory, and share a few common traits.

I will talk about the best traits I have found in a medical professional. These helped me feel cared for, safe, worry less and focus more on healing and staying positive.

The doctor understands what we are dealing with

As a professional who comes in contact with people in pain, discomfort and distress on most occasions, a good doctor shows they understand.
If they only comprehend the scientific aspect of your condition, they should be a researcher. Professionals looking after our well being need to appreciate we are body and mind. Usually, the whole package needs their attention.

When I recently paid a visit to the A&E, such a doctor saw me in the specialised ward. They consulted me and confirmed the tenderness and swelling they noticed in the area causing the pain. It felt relieving that they understood. In order for us to believe a doctor can help and treat us, we need to first know they see and understand what we are dealing with.
Is that not the basis of trust in any relation?

Helping us understand the diagnosis

After them understanding what we feel and how we struggle, what’s next? Of course, they assess symptoms and carry on examinations, tests, scans, anything necessary. But they also explain why they do what they do. I would find nothing worse in a health related situation but to think the health professional just hunts around in the dark.

Back in Bucharest, I was treated of chlamydia infection by a top gynecologist. First, he explained why he suspected this diagnosis. Second, he told me how a blood test would provide the best proof for the diagnostic.
Back then, he talked about up to half a million people suspected with chlamydia infection in the UK every year. Also, he said a blood test stands as  the only fail safe way to point at chlamydia infection. The virus hides itself well and only the clear presence of the antibodies in your blood will confirm its presence.

Unfortunately, in the UK the blood test for chlamydia is not available on the NHS. It cost about £200 privately last time I checked. Official statistics show it to be the most spread STI in the UK.

Knowing what to expect after treatment or surgery helps ease our mind

Also, third but not least, a good doctor will always tell you what to expect next. Of course, they cannot predict everything, as medicine today still doesn’t understand the human body and health 100%. But the unexpected or unknown tends to scare us more than being aware of the worst which could happen. 

When I had my appendix removed, the infection started to spread. From first symptoms (sickness, pain) at 6 am in the morning to the surgery in the evening only about 12 hours passed. I experienced no forewarning. Back in the ward, the surgeon who operated on me came to see me after the surgery. She said I did well to insist for the ambulance to take me to the hospital. I had a start of peritonitis and it could have turned for the worse quickly.

Also, she warned me I would feel sick and probably experience considerable pain over night, for up to 12 hours after surgery. Whenever I felt the pain was too much, I should call for a nurse and ask for more painkillers. The surgeon also explained why this happens. She said something around the lines:

“Your internal organs are basically trying to figure out what happened, why the appendix is missing. Thus, the pain can spread all the way to your stomach, although there won’t be anything wrong with it. And it will be painful, I know, I’ve been there myself”,

What she tole me helped more than any fake encouragement I could have gotten. And I suspect all good  professionals know that.

I might write, in another piece, about the way certain professionals choose to go out of their way to help patients. Luckily, I also met such extraordinary people.

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