Just not listening – or “narrative incompetence”?

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

The Radical EarI’ve been reading lately about something called the patient’s narrative in medicine. Although it’s basically defined as patients telling the story of what originally brought them to see the doctor, it’s actually much more.

Doctors, for example, all too often may see “the story” as an unnecessarily lengthy distraction from getting swiftly to diagnosis and treatment.

But as U.K. physician Dr. Jeff Clark describes it, connecting with and understanding the patient requires a doctor to appreciate each person’s unique perspective. In the December 2008 issue of The British Journal of General Practice, he asked other doctors to consider how not listening to a patient’s story can be compared to his colleague’s golf game:  Continue reading “Just not listening – or “narrative incompetence”?”

The lost art of common courtesy in medicine

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

So I showed up for a scheduled medical test at the hospital the other day. It was one of those particularly distasteful tests that involve a full day’s prep at home choking down a range of hideous chemical cocktails, consumption of which is designed to induce explosive liquid diarrhea that requires staying very, very close to a toilet all day long. The procedure itself  on the following morning was right up there on the Creepy Disgusting Embarrassing Cringe Scale of medical experiences.

Hospital procedures like this feel invasive, uncomfortable, distressing, and revoltingly undignified for most patients. All the more reason that medical staff who administer such procedures need to start treating us like we’re more than just the nameless, faceless 10 o’clock patient in Bed 8, what I’ve previously described here as “the obstacle between them and their next coffee break, just a piece of meat on a slab – but worse, an invisible piece of meat.”

Call me crazy, but I might even go so far as to insist that patients deserve to be treated with common courtesy, and let’s start with the simple basics of saying something like:

Hello. My name is _____ and I’ll be doing your ______  today.” Continue reading “The lost art of common courtesy in medicine”

Top 10 Tips on How To Treat Patients – my guest post on ‘Better Health’

This Heart Sisters original article was reprinted today as a guest post on the website BETTER HEALTH



An open letter to all hospital employees,

After a particularly bizarre experience undergoing a treadmill stress echocardiogram at your hospital recently, I decided to do something that I have never done before. I called the Cardiology Department manager to complain about her staff. Incidentally, a recent survey of international tourists found that Canadians were #1 in only one category:

“Least likely to complain when things go wrong”

So you can appreciate that lodging an official complaint is a fairly Big Deal up here!
Continue reading “Top 10 Tips on How To Treat Patients – my guest post on ‘Better Health’”

What do you call your doctor?

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Physician Dr. Anne Marie Valinoti, writing in the New York Times, explored the subject of exam room etiquette between doctor and patient, and specifically how they address each other.

“Since my early career, I have always been addressed as ‘Dr. Valinoti’. Freshly minted MDs, some as young as 25, get a title of respect – while seasoned nurses in the hospital are just Betty, Kaye or Nancy.

“I remembered the absurdity of this situation when, as a young intern, I was addressing critical care nurses with decades of experience by their first names, while they deferentially called me ‘Doctor.’  These were women who had started their careers when I was still playing with Barbie dolls, yet where were their professional titles?

“Like most things in medical training, I got used to it, and it became second nature.

“One thing I am still getting used to, though, is when patients call me by my first name. There seems to be a void in this area of etiquette: How does one address one’s physician? Continue reading “What do you call your doctor?”