Home > doctor patient communications, health conferences > Why Doctors Aren’t Patients, Too

Why Doctors Aren’t Patients, Too

Two reasons I write this post:

  1. As I wrote my book (to be published Fall 2009) I researched other books available to help patients become smart patients.  All but two I found were written by doctors.
  2. Healthcare reform seems to have spawned any number of conferences, meetings and gatherings where “all the important stakeholders” are represented at the table.  Except that many of them don’t invite or include patients — evidently we aren’t considered important stakeholders in healthcare.  (she typed as she shook her head….)

So it seems prudent to explain to you why we patients just don’t buy that opinion we get from doctors, nurses or medical professionals, that “we are all patients” or that “doctors are patients, too.”

I believe that no one whose makes their livelihood from medical care is a pure patient, not tainted by medical knowledge, education and experience.

Here’s why:  you can never subtract that knowledge.  You will always have your background to guide you.  Your level of fear, of the unknown, will always be affected by your knowledge of all that surrounds any experience you have as a medical professional.

Saying a doctor is a patient is like saying an auto mechanic is a car owner.  Or that the President of the United States is an American citizen.  Or that a university professor is a student.

And to us patients, it comes across as condescending.

In my book, I describe it like this:  You can never subtract your knowledge of medicine and the system just like you can’t subtract your ability to read.  It will always be with you.

A patient, on the other hand, doesn’t have that knowledge.  Fear of our medical problems is multiplied by our fear of the unknown.

Take a look at this and tell me what it says:

Ορκίζομαι να εκπληρώσει, όσο καλύτερα μου κρίση και ικανότητα, η εν λόγω σύμβαση που έχει:

Θα αφορά το κόπο επιστημονικά οφέλη από αυτές τις ενέργειες των οποίων οι γιατροί σε πάω με τα πόδια, και ευχαρίστως το μερίδιο αυτών των γνώσεων, όπως είναι η δική μου με αυτούς που είναι να ακολουθήσει.*

That’s what medicine feels like to a patient.  We don’t get it. We don’t understand it. We must learn it, beginning at square one.  And once we can do that, we can begin to get past the fear and begin to engage in the conversation.

So please, doctor (or nurse or…) — please don’t tell us you are a patient, too. You may “officially” be one, but you will never be able to think purely like a patient.


*By the way, this is the beginning of the Greek version of something that should be well-known to you.  Something we patients expect you have embraced and practice every day.


Learn more about Trisha and her work.

Learn more about Trisha’s book
You Bet Your Life! The 10 Mistakes Every Patient Makes

(How to Fix Them to Get the Healthcare You Deserve)


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