Saturday, January 12, 2008

Friday Night Rambles

Friday wasn't a great way to end the week. I saw an out-of-towner and diagnosed him with thyroid cancer. He also had money problems, and really wanted only the bare minimum done. In the midst of preparing him for surgery, I had a disagreement with my consultant and the surgeon, who wanted some tests and consults done which in my opinion were unnecessary.
Which wasn't a big deal, and profesionally I still disagreed with him, but you have to do what a surgeon wants you to do if you want him to do what you want him to do (to operate on your patient).
But I came home a bit upset, and in a way, irritated at myself. Wondering if I was really cutting corners because I was trying to spare the patient the burden of the expensive tests and neurology consult? Or was I really that sure that those weren't necessary before I sent him to surgery? The surgeon had implied the former. Which may have been true- the patient's mother pleaded with me to not perform any expensive tests; maybe I started off biased. Maybe my judgment was impaired because of what the patient wanted, and not because of what was in his best interest.
Needless to say, I came home doubting myself.
Which got me thinking (really, the topic of my post today): I wonder what patients would prefer?
Would patients prefer to think that their doctors are infallible, mightier-than-thou, always confident Healers? What would patients think of a physician who is, simply put, human? Someone who has good and bad days, someone who doesn't have all the answers, someone who, heaven forbid, feels stupid on a bad day?
I caught myself wondering this when I was talking to Kris last night. We've always been taught to be professional, to show empathy but to show no emotion. To be confident.
But, I wondered what my patient would think had they known I disagreed with the surgeon, and such was left with some doubt? That I left work feeling, simply put, dumb?
Would they make a connection with us, and realize we're only human? Perhaps even strengthen the patient-doctor relationship? Or would that only jeopardize it?
Someone once told me, a surgeon who doubts himself is more dangerous than one who makes the occasional mistake. Perhaps it's true in the fast-paced, life and death world of surgery. But does that apply to everyone else?
Food for thought, but perhaps a big too heavy for a weekend.


Blogger Bee Ean said...

Hey thanks for passing by my blog. When I look at your profile, my first impression was that Malaysia lost a great physician, again. :-)

Anyway, congrats on your approaching weddings. I had 3 myself, with the same man: Two in France and one in Malaysia. I organized all the trips for 11 French to Malaysia and 9 Malaysians to France. It was very stressful, but I enjoy it. So, have fun for your wedding.

7:10 AM  
Blogger Tsu Lin said...

Hey Dr Vagus, I read your letter to The Star published today (17 Jan). Well written regarding plight of M'sian doctors who are interested to return but was met with the cold shoulders.

(btw, did they publish it verbatim?)

9:27 AM  
Blogger vagus said...

thanks for your notes.
yes, actually they did publish the letter in its entirety, for once.

8:02 PM  

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