How to be a “good” patient

9 Aug

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

Here’s how to be a “GOOD PATIENT”:

  • Get sick (preferably with a short-term acute ailment).
  • Get an appointment to see your doctor.
  • Get diagnosed.
  • Get a prescription.
  • Get better.
  • Thank your brilliant doctor.

Now, here’s how to be a “DIFFICULT PATIENT”:

  • Contract a chronic, progressive illness.
  • Go see your doctor.
  • Get diagnosed.
  • Take your meds.
  • Get diagnosed with something different. Many, many times.
  • Take your new meds.
  • Keep going back, because symptoms keep getting worse.
  • Get more tests.
  • Take different meds.
  • Get referrals to specialists. Many, many times.
  • Get more tests, more meds and more invasive medical procedures.
  • Keep going back.

You get the picture . . .


© 2011 Carolyn Thomas

NOTE FROM CAROLYN:  I included more about being a “good patient” in my book, A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease (Johns Hopkins University Press, November 2017).

See also:


16 Responses to “How to be a “good” patient”

  1. Catt October 8, 2017 at 7:52 am #

    Loved reading this. Gave me hope!


  2. Butterflywings December 10, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    Well said, love this.


    • Carolyn Thomas December 10, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

      Thanks! 🙂


  3. Campykid August 15, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    I was a good, adherent patient and my primary care doctor was a good physician until I was diagnosed with a heart problem. Now, the saying “Question authority” seems to be my modus operandi (and I have a new PCP).


    • Carolyn Thomas August 15, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

      Campykid, thanks for using the word ‘adherent’ here instead of the word doctors use most often: “compliant”.


  4. drcharles August 11, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    I think studies by Dr. Barbara Starfield confirm this 🙂


    • Carolyn Thomas August 11, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

      Thanks Dr. Charles for reminding us of the late Dr. Starfield’s important work. Interesting, though, that she reported in 2009 that her landmark 2000 study on health care in America published in the Journal of the American Medical Association was “rejected by the first journal that I sent it to, on the grounds that ‘it would not be interesting to readers’!”


  5. Sandy August 11, 2011 at 7:03 am #

    I was never a difficult patient until I had a heart attack and the ER doctor told me, “it is probably just a pulled muscle”. I wanted to pull his muscle. I told him to call my heart doctor “NOW” and if he didn’t, I wouldn’t be responsible for my actions. Hmmm, seems I had a heart attack. The ER doctor never came back in my room until I demanded he do so, and then I told him just exactly what I thought of him and how he handles women with chest pain. I can only hope he took it to ‘heart’ and didn’t say that crap to someone else until he knew for sure what was going on. Now when he sees me in the ER he treats me totally different. I guess I made a good impression on him.


    • Carolyn Thomas August 11, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

      Well, Sandy, either you “made a good impression on him” – or else he just wrote you off as a raving lunatic who needs to be treated differently. Let’s hope it was the former!


  6. Jamie August 10, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

    Oh how I would love to be a “good” patient!

    I really like the sound of the second to last line.. Get better. If only it were so easy. I’ll keep dreaming…


    • Carolyn Thomas August 10, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

      Hi Jamie – I was a very good patient when I had a ruptured appendix/peritonitis years ago. Or when I had knee surgery. Or when I popped out two babies the old-fashioned way.

      Alas, I am not so “good” as a heart patient with ongoing cardiac issues… 😉



      • Jamie August 10, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

        hahaha! Yeah, I guess I used to be a “good” patient before pericarditis. Heck, my doctors barely even saw me back then. As it turns out, I am a terrible heart patient. At least we’re not alone…



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