I had a Facebook friend recently pose this question to her timeline. “If your health practitioner gave/”prescribed” you a Fitbit, would you use it?” and it seemed an even more pertinent question in light of Lisa’s post on staying home when you are sick. My initial reaction was no. Not because I don’t see the benefit, or know the advice to get 10,000 steps a day, but because that type of interaction is not motivational for me. Most adults would agree that they know what constitutes a healthy lifestyle and know to heed the advice of doctors. Sometimes, it may be that we just don’t want to. After all, it may be hard to hear the things they have to say. But what if it’s not so much that we don’t want to do what they are saying. What if it’s that the way that they come across is less than professional.
Just last month, during a visit with the PA at my doctor’s office about a symptom that had been plaguing me for some time, I expressed my fear in going forward with a particular suggested treatment. I had hoped for some compassion, but instead the PA looked and me and told me to stop being a baby. I simply couldn’t believe it. And yet I know I’m not alone. My husband went in for his annual physical, and in not so many words was told he was fat. He wasn’t asked what he was doing to lose weight and get healthy, but rather was just told that he was overweight. Just the other night, as I opened up my internet browser to research for this post, the following headline came across the screen, “This Woman’s Story About Being Shamed by Her Gynecologist Is Going Viral.” User momdadimrae shares that she, a 19 year old woman, was shamed by her doctor for being on antidepressants since age 14 and was told depression didn’t exist and that she should stop whining.
Taken a step further, these sorts of interactions between patient and medical provider can be very dangerous, especially for the aging patient. Studies have shown that, “people who are constantly being intimidated by their doctors are less likely to say things that may ignite a physician’s fury. A person may be reluctant to share a troubling symptom or the fact that they are experiencing a new side effect if they are worried it will make a doctor angry.”
Perhaps a lack of communication training in medical school is to blame for the disconnect during interpersonal interactions in the exam room. We are all human. We have bad days. And as rational adults, we often know what is best for our health or for the treatment of a problem. But I still don’t believe that shaming, or name calling, or being down right mean is the way to get a patient to comply with your medical recommendations.