Friday, January 30, 2009

Stating the obvious

Apparently, some people in Chicago asked people while they were in the hospital to name doctors that may be taking care of them and 75% of them failed to name a single person on the team taking care of them.  Is this a surprise?  Not to me.  I'm surprised if the patient even recognizes me as a doctor.  

Today, I was taking care of an 87 year old man (yeah, I'm not doing Ob/Gyn at this moment - I'm actually doing a rotation on inpatient adult medicine right now) and did my rounds, said, "Hello, my name is Dr. Truong and I will be the doctor taking care of you today."  I turn around, see another patient, and go back to see him and he looks at me, looks at his son (who appeared in those 5 minutes), and I introduce myself again.  He then says, "Wait, you're a doctor?"  Maybe it's because he was old, had hit his head, or because I seemed too young (he kept on asking me when I started medical school) - either way, he had no idea what my role was, let alone my name, even though I had told him no more than 5 minutes before.  

However, I guess the question to be asking is whether this matters.  Does it matter that this 87 year old man didn't know my name?  Or that I was a doctor?  It certainly doesn't matter in terms of his ability to get in contact with me - as his nurse is aware of who I am and they're the ones (incessantly) paging me anyways.  It would matter to his son, who seemed to be more in tune to what was happening to him and concerned about the quality of care he was getting (which he stated was much better than an unnamed private insurer/hospital system that he belonged to).  

Does it make me feel bad and hurt my feelings - thereby making me less likely to provide optimal care?  Certainly not.  Dear, I can't even remember half my patients' names sometimes, so I cannot blame them. Does that make me a bad doctor?  I don't think it does.  Does it make me a bad person?  Possibly so.

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