Tag Archives: doctor patient communication

The shock – and ironic relief – of hearing a serious diagnosis

10 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

I vaguely recall my gurney being wheeled very quickly down a wide hospital corridor after I heard the words “heart attack” from the cardiologist who had been called to the E.R. I stared up at the ceiling lights flicking by overhead, feeling strangely calm. Here’s what I recall thinking in my strangely calm state: when I’d first come into this same E.R. two weeks earlier, scared that my symptoms of chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain down my left arm might be due to a heart attack, I had been right!

These symptoms had never been because I was “in the right demographic for acid reflux” (despite what the Emergency physician who’d sent me home that first day had confidently pronounced). But now, after two weeks of increasingly horrific symptoms, popping Gaviscon like candy, I just felt relieved that all of the people around me now would know how to take care of me. The shock of hearing my new (correct) diagnosis of heart attack was subsumed in that moment by a wave of profound relief. Continue reading

Informed consent: more than just a patient’s signature

13 Aug

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

The cardiologist was called to the ER and told me that he could tell by my T-waves and other diagnostic test results that I was having a heart attack. From that moment on, I could see his lips moving. I could hear sounds coming out of his mouth. I think I may have signed something before I was urgently moved upstairs to have what turned out to be a 95% blocked coronary artery unblocked. I was so stunned and overwhelmed, however, that I simply could not comprehend anything that was happening around me once I heard him say the words “heart attack”. He may have been speaking Swahili. . .

Yet I’m now pretty sure that the fact I signed a piece of paper somehow meant that I had participated in the informed consent process required of most hospital patients.

Does informed consent actually mean that it’s informed at all?  Continue reading

Hysterical female? Just anxious? Or heart attack?

27 Mar

woman_depression

A guest post written by Patti Digh, social activist, heart attack survivor, and the author of eight books including her best seller Life is a Verb: 37 Days To Wake Up, Be Mindful, And Live Intentionally.  This essay originally ran on her blog 37 Days in January 2016.

“He’s working with a med student shadowing him today. Do you mind being seen by her first?”

In the spirit of education, I said, “No, of course not.”

She had long strawberry blond hair and big glasses. We talked. “What brought you here today?” she asked. Continue reading

When you fear being labelled a “difficult” patient

13 Dec

woman latina worried.jpg

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

We arrive early for our doctor’s appointment. We wait patiently. We sit across from the doctor, and we nod and smile politely during our visit. We pick up the prescription for our meds and then we walk out the door to make room for the next patient waiting.

And sometimes we do this even when the discussion about our health care leaves us with unspoken concerns or unanswered questions. Most patients know what this feels like, so it’s reassuring to learn that academics are actually studying it: our fear of being labelled a “difficult patient”.
Continue reading

Fighting, battling, and beating: combat metaphors in medicine are just wrong

29 Nov

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Are you “battling” heart disease”? Have you “beaten” cancer? Are you “fighting” a chronic illness? These wartime references are metaphors as described by Dr. Jack Coulehan, a physician, an award-winning poet, and editor of the 5th edition of The Medical Interview: Mastering Skills for Clinical Practice, a best-selling textbook on the doctor-patient relationship.(1)  Dr. C explains that there are several basic metaphors used in medicine that to a large extent generate the vocabulary of doctor-patient communication – but can also unintentionally objectify and dehumanize the patient.

Here are three of the most prominent metaphors you’re likely to encounter in health care:  Continue reading