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This is a riddle. Ask a Doctor who doctored a Doctor who needed Doctoring, what it was like to do this job. Next ask a Doctor who needed Doctoring by another Doctor when he needed doctoring what his experience was like. Both will have volumes to tell you.

It is common knowledge that, by and large, Doctors make bad patients. Maybe, because they seem to think that they know everything and need not be told what to do or, simply, a refusal to be dictated to by another member of the same profession. It is also a fact that a Doctor will know what it is to be a patient only when he is at the receiving end. Only the foot that is wearing the shoe knows where it is pinching. Many a patient has been heard to grumble on the side-“Just wait until he/she becomes a patient himself/herself and then he/she will know”

No one can deny the fact that many Doctors simply fail to understand what they are expecting from a patient when they issue orders , whether as outpatient or as in patients. Through a requisition or through instructions to the attending Nurse, a list of medicines to be taken is dictated or a battery of tests to be conducted is dictated, all the while, the patient is at sea and totally lost. It is also very true that not many Doctors take the trouble of explaining to the patient what is needed or why is something being done or is being asked for. It is also true that no Doctor, who conforms to this practice, has ever had his instructions not carried out.

Having said so much, I must add that you cannot generalize like this, in all cases. Take my case. My first experience, as a patient, was when I was a 3rd year undergraduate MBBS student. Immediately after finishing my Pharmacology Practical University Examination, I made a beeline to the General Hospital to be admitted to a bed in the “C” Class Special Ward. I was posted for an elective Appendicectomy to remove the culprit who was causing me chronic stomach problems all through that year. As a Medical Student, I had the privilege of being operated upon by no less a person than the Director of Medical Services who was also the Chief Surgeon of the First Surgical Unit, Lt.Col. Sangam Lal. Whether it was the novel experience of being a patient for the first time combined with a total ignorance of what I was in for or the awe of being operated upon by such an illustrious personage, before I knew anything, the Surgery was done and I was back home to recuperate.

Then came my graduation and my specialization in Pediatrics; of course, followed by practice. I was fortunate that I belonged to a batch which had very illustrious Surgeons and Physicians as teachers from whom we not only imbibed knowledge but also the secrets and essentials of good doctor-patient relationship. One does not fish for compliments but all my patients accepted one fact- I was considerate and understanding and my lines of communication with them were always open, without any intermediaries. It is also a fact-I swear on this, so help me God- that I never had an occasion to hospitalize even one of my patients during my long stint in private consultation practice in Paediatrics. Please don’t ask me the reason – I myself don’t know the answer. But as a General Practitioner, when I was Medical Officer for several Shipping Companies, I had to hospitalize those members of the crew who fell sick and could not sail with the ship. With these patients, I was understanding and cooperative, as long as they did not act smart.

Now I come to the real reason for this article. In the middle of June, this year, circumstances of my health required my admission in Dr.U.Mohan Rau Memorial Hospital, for a Total Thyroidectomy. Now, I was older, more experienced and, I hope, more knowledgeable, and knew what I was going in for. In spite of the fact that I was a Doctor myself, all the doctors who were going to be concerned with my stay and treatment in the Nursing Home took great pains to detail to me what problems I had, what should be done for them and what their course of action as going to be. I also had the confidence in and guidance from God Almighty which helped me to maintain my balance and not become agitated. This perhaps eased my transformation into a patient myself and helped me to maintain my balance and cooperate to the maximum extent possible. Added to this was the presence of my Doctor Son, who flew down from USA at very short notice (and who proved to be a very tough task master), to be with me, and the presence of my other loving family members. Further, add to this, all the care and attention that was bestowed on me by the very efficient Doctors and Nurses and other paramedical personnel employed by the Nursing Home and the very pleasant surroundings of the well-equipped and very comfortable room into which I was admitted made the entire procedure one smooth easy flowing experience where I had absolutely no problem of transforming myself from being a Doctor to becoming a patient myself. Of course, every time an injection was given or a procedure was done or a blood sample had to be collected, I allowed it calmly since I knew that those things had to be done, in my own interest. All in all, many of my family members commented, at the end, that I had taken things in my stride and had behaved as a good patient. I sincerely hope that the Nursing Home personnel agree with this view.

Dr. G.V. Sudheendra, MBBS, DCH.
Chennai 600 008.



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Updated on 15.10.2002.
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