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.