How not to be a doctor

I’m pleased to say that 95% of doctors I’ve ever had anything to do with have been very good, however, I had a bad experience with one during my recent stay in hospital which made me feel compelled to write a short guide on how and how not to behave with a patient:

  • Do not launch into asking the patient questions without first introducing yourself and explaining your role and what you’re about to do to/with the patient.
  • Do not repeatedly call the patient “lady”, when you know her name. It’s on her file which you have in front of you – if only you’d bothered to read even the front cover. If you don’t know the patient’s name, please ask the patient what her/his name is – you need to check you have the right patient, if nothing else!
  • Do explain what you are going to do and why you’re going to do it. This makes things a bit less scary for the patient.
  • Do not tell the patient they are behaving like a baby if they become upset about having a blood test (or any other procedure). They are probably fully aware that they are behaving like a baby – if they could control their reaction they would. Instead, be sympathetic, seek to reassure the patient and distract them from the blood test, e.g. by talking to them about other things.
  • Do listen to the patient and take their concerns seriously.
  • Do make sure that your standard of English (or whatever the patient’s language happens to be) is good enough to understand the patient and be understood by them.
  • If you do not feel confident in carrying out the procedure you’re supposed to be doing please do not make this obvious to the patient as this will only increase his or her anxiety levels. Instead, please ask another doctor to help you.
  • Do not make the patient feel like she/he is a problem.
  • In general, do not patronise the patient or be discourteous at any time.

Fortunately, I only had dealings with the doctor in question once during my stay in hospital. In his defence, he was/is a junior doctor and I’m not a very easy patient to deal with, especially when blood tests come into the equation, but there was really no need for him to be so, well, rude. Thankfully all the other medical staff I met during my stay were really pleasant, understanding and good at their jobs.


Author: Lilian

Librarian who likes music, cataloguing, theology, gardening, crochet, ampersands, taking photos, baking & tea. Has CHD & pacemaker.

6 thoughts on “How not to be a doctor”

  1. Besides telling us, you need to tell the hospital! I recently had a visit to the ER and got a follow up questionnaire which I gladly took the time to complete.

  2. There. I don’t like to be called “Hon” either, and there are plenty of people who call me that, they all seem to be at the dentist’s office.

    You have just described the “anti-good bedside manner” quite thoroughly.

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