Is there a doctor in the house? Yes, he's outside in the garage right now, working on his car and blowing off some steam. (I'm not kidding. Happening NOW.)
Contrary to what we frequently think, doctors are regular people—moms, dads, caregivers, wives—all with responsibilities, worries and moments of stress. I happen to live with a doctor (my husband). I also grew up in a "doctor house" (my dad's technically a dentist, but almost the same thing). And if I've learned something about doctors in my lifetime, it's that they can get frustrated just like the rest of us.
Generally speaking, doctors are always on call, always on alert and always have heavy topics on their minds, whether it's the man whose insurance just ran out (in the middle of treatment) or the kid who has been coughing for four weeks straight but all the tests come out clean. Doctors have concerns too, so let's try not to make them crazy if something doesn't warrant crazy.
I'm just the messenger here, gang. (Yes, I took a sampling of responses from a bunch of MDs I know for this one. I compiled a similar list like this for teachers; now I'm going to bat for docs.) In the name of good health, let's consider avoiding the following eight habits and practices, as innocent as they may be, from our end.
1. Please don't call to ask for a random prescription only.
Unless you have an ongoing, pre-examined condition that requires a refill and there was some kind of misunderstanding or mishap concerning your new pharmacy or a change of insurance that is preventing that refill from happening, please don't call the office and say, "I need antibiotics, please." Because truthfully, how do you know? Believe it or not, doctors can get investigated for offering suspiciously frequent or incorrect prescriptions.
2. Please don't be late to an appointment.
There are enough issues with modern medicine (hello, insurance) that a doctor's office must juggle, revise and then redo. Please be considerate of what their staff might be dealing with on the backend and don't add "The doctor's so late today!" to their list of daily complaints, all because you were late in the morning and threw off the entire day's schedule.
3. Please don't go in for a consultation or checkup and then proceed to inform the doctor what kind of test or surgery you need before he/she is able to examine you and offer trained expertise.
Trust that your doctor will explore and investigate what you're telling them.
You went to see the doctor because he/she is the expert (thanks to what most likely consists of a full decade of medical training). You might think you have mononucleosis, but really you're just low on electrolytes and vitamins and need to step up your hydration efforts. Trust that your doctor will explore and investigate what you're telling them and run tests accordingly to get to the bottom of it (they have to, given all the liability around misdiagnosed conditions). Then, if you still feel like you need to push for another opinion or additional test, by all means be a rockstar and advocate for yourself in a respectful way.
4. Please don't diagnose yourself or your kid using Google.
This one seems obvious, but let's be honest here, we've all done it (myself included—yes, I've told my doctor that I've read this-or-that material and have concerns about my thyroid thanks to matching symptoms, etc.). Any good doctor will be open to hearing, "I've heard of this, I've read about this, and I've been feeling these same things over XYZ amount of time ... I'm concerned," but please, do not make demands right out of the gate. Google did not go to medical school, and neither did most of the authors of articles that show up when you type in "swollen glands."
5. Please do not ask them if they know of another doctor or specialist who does what they do.
This one's a hot button at our house, thanks to what my husband does. Time and time again, my husband's office will get calls from folks asking, "Hi, I found your website and see that you are a specialist in XYZ. I'm curious if you can recommend other specialists who do what you do." It's totally confusing to him, and absolutely infuriating to me. If you're looking for someone else to perform a procedure, then please, go find someone else and opt out of wasting anyone's time.
6. Please resist the temptation to ask a doctor to diagnose or examine you in the back bathroom at a party, a restaurant or any kind of social event.
How would you feel if someone asked you to produce reports at a Saturday night dinner?
I'll bet their office is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week. Please call to make an appointment and let that doctor enjoy a meal or glass of wine on his/her day off. Yes, I know you work and that it's difficult to get somewhere in the middle of the week, but how would you feel if someone asked you to produce reports, write an article or negotiate a closing statement at a Saturday night dinner?
7. Please don't skip a follow-up appointment from a procedure or diagnosis or shop for other doctors solely for the sake of saving a buck—especially if you're sporting a brand new Chanel bag.
(Yes, doctors notice these things.) Shopping around for doctors on a piecemeal basis wastes more time than anyone has. Most of the time, your original doctor will end up having to clean up the mess from all the wrong diagnosis you collected while trying to get a discount somewhere else. Don't nickel-and-dime and fragment healthcare—it's too important! Once you find a doctor you like, stick to them unless an unforeseen condition requires you to then pursue a specialist.
8. Please, please, please resist asking if the doctor can "cut you a deal" on a procedure or checkup solely because you happen to be acquainted with them on a personal level.
(Although my husband does deal with his share of circumstances like this, this situation also extends back to when I was a kid and my dad would come home from his office saying, "So-and-so isn't paying their bill because we know their family.") Come on, people, we're classier than that, aren't we? It's one thing if your brother or sister, mom or dad or best friend from college who you partied with four nights a week offers to give freebies because they love you, but let's opt out of expecting inappropriate favors from anyone unless favors are offered without solicitation.
Here's to minding our manners around medical professionals. Because most of them work really, really hard and actually know what they're doing.