There’s a saying, I don’t know the origin, that doctors make the worst patients.
I have several doctors in my practice. All are very nice, I hardly ever see them, but when I do, I remember why that saying is true. See, doctors diagnose themselves, then go see their own physicians for confirmation. For examples, a female physician patient of mine came in to see me a few weeks ago. The first words out of her mouth were, “So, I think I’m having dysfunctional uterine bleeding.” Right. Ok then. One might just give her the requisition for an ultrasound or a referral to a gynecologist and be done with it. But what if she’s wrong? (Okay, she’s probably not, but still, it’s my job to take a proper history). So, I do my due diligence, take a proper history, do a physical examination and come to the same conclusion. She probably has DUB and needs an ultrasound. She could have just ordered the ultrasound herself, but she didn’t. She did the correct thing and see her own physician.
Many physician patients don’t though. The self-diagnose and self-treat. This can get them into trouble. I’m sure you’ve heard the tale of the male physician who dropped dead of a heart attack at the age of 50. I certainly have. He had probably been having chest pain, angina, for many months but either chose to ignore it, or took a baby aspirin and nitroglycerin spray, hoping it would go away. Denial is something we see in our patients, but physicians can carry that burden as well.
I have been a patient myself a few times since becoming a physician. Most recently, of course, during the birth of my two children. I remember being in the recovery room after having my daughter by Caesarean section for failure to progress. After surgery, my heart rate stayed between 120-130. I could hear the monitor beeping at me. Nurses came in every 5 minutes to check my blood pressure, asking how I was feeling. I felt fine. Tired, but fine. Suddenly I started to worry, oh God, was I having an amniotic fluid embolism? Was I hemorrhaging? Of course I wasn’t, but I’m sure those thoughts didn’t help my tachycardia. I later found out the reason for my tachycardia was the cephalopelvic disproportion I’d had. The dysfunctional labour had caused me to lose a little bit of blood. My post-operative hemoglobin had dropped to 90. I recovered. All is well now. But for those few hours I was seriously worried that something was very, very wrong. Any other person wouldn’t have know what was going on but a physician? Our first thought is the worst thing we can think of.
And don’t even get me started on physician parents!
For example, a physician’s toddler stands in the bathtub, then slips and does a faceplant on the side of the tub. Instant bump and bruise develop under the left eye. First thought of physician parent? Fractured orbit.
After a viral infection, child develops peeling of the skin of the fingers and toes. First though of the physician parent? Kawasaki’s disease.
I could go on and on and on. And yes, those two examples were of me.
I should have started this post with doctor-parents make the worst patients.