Saturday, 17 March 2007

Pat on the back

I remember a consultant geriatrician once telling me that there was nothing wrong with a pat on the back, as long as it was applied sufficiently low down and sufficiently firmly.

But working day to day in an overstretched system, it is easy to get bogged down. We remember the complaints, and imagine that patients are complaining even when they are not. We tend to forget the compliments. In this blog I will try to record both, but I will start off with a compliment.

A patient of about my age recently had to leave the list after moving a long way outside our practice area. (We can't continue to look after people when they do this, because we would not be able to visit them in an emergency.) I received a very pleasant letter saying "I would like to thank you for looking after me for all these years - you never made me feel I was wasting your time and your support helped me a great deal". Looking back I realised that I had looked after her for nearly twenty years; she would consult from time to time with mostly anxiety-related symptoms. But she wasn't a "difficult patient" because she was happy to accept my explanations. The doctor-patient relationship cuts both ways - anxious patients who do not trust their doctor and continue to demand investigations can be a nightmare.

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