My most recent doctor introduction didn’t involve an introduction.
My new specialist came into the room, rummaged around, and what felt like many, many moments later, asked about previous test results without making eye contact. That’s when I said, “Well, first of all, hi. We haven’t met. My name’s Kate.” And then I reached out my hand.
She actually apologized for not introducing herself to me (kind of), but suffice to say, many, many weeks and visits later, she is not my favorite doctor.
After having been through enough doctor drama recently, I wanted to be assertive enough to show her that not introducing herself to a new patient was not OK. From a doctor, I want good care, yes, but I also want someone to actually care about me personally — at least enough to know what my name is or acknowledge my existence.
Though the thought has crossed my mind that I’m being too sensitive and may be the only one suffering from Rude Doctor Syndrome, it turns out I’m not.
A study from Johns Hopkins University confirms that bedside manner just isn’t what it used to be. Young doctors in their first year out of medical school are unlikely to take the time to introduce themselves to hospitalized patients, or to sit and have an eye-to-eye conversation with patients, the study found.
Sure, some may argue they don’t care about bedside manner, they care about competency. But how doctors treat their patients (personally, not literally — though that applies, too) makes a huge difference in patient care. Research shows that common courtesy from doctors improves a patient’s recovery and leads to greater patient satisfaction. It causes patients to heed doctors’ advice, to go for annual exams and to be more willing to bring up potential problems.
“It’s no wonder patients don’t feel connected to what we are telling them, because many times we are not doing as much as we could to make that connection,” study co-author Dr. Lauren Block, a former general internal medicine fellow at Johns Hopkins, said in a statement.
The Johns Hopkins study researchers say the things doctors can do to fix the problem are easy. They include introducing themselves, touching the patient and asking simple questions, such as “How are you feeling today?”
Doesn’t seem like much to ask.
I don’t need a study to confirm this lack of common courtesy. I’ve had plenty of my own experiences (among them, seeing ER doctors who try to shuffle in and out patients as fast as possible).
A group of girlfriends and I (yes, I know this sounds stereotypical) recently were talking about our OB/GYNs. After talking about how much we dreaded going for our annual visit because we all hated our rude doctors, one admitted how much she liked hers.
Our conversation went something like this: “Oh my gosh, she’s good and she’s nice?”
“Yeah, she’s super helpful and really, really nice!”
Two of us have already switched to said nice, competent doctor.
I get it. Doctors are really busy and really stressed — especially with everything that’s going on in the medical world. But a lot of others are, too. Is being competent AND being nice too much to ask? Unfortunately, it is. But it shouldn’t be.