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Are Doctors Weird People?

Publishing Date : 12 January, 2016

Author : DR BOIMA

This week’s article is the first offering of the new year and I have decided to give you a welcome gift by letting you into our professional lives. “Doctors are weird people”, “so you don’t have a life?”, “how do you cope with death”, “...but you don’t look like a doctor”, I have heard people remark. When asked how doctors are supposed to be like, people mostly give a grossed out face.

Surely you all don’t expect us to walk around in our scrubs, soiled with blood and other bodily fluids, having no time for proper grooming, with poor etiquette and no social awareness whatsoever.

There is no personality known as ‘doctor’. We are all individuals and we differ in our personalities, outlook on life and preferences but definitely there are qualities that doctors have in common. Some are instilled during the medical training and perhaps most are inborn and they are the ones that eventually determine who responds to this calling.

Knowledgeable - A doctor needs to know how the whole body functions as a unit and what should be done to maintain an overall health. To be able to stay informed at all times requires keenness, focus, sharp memory etc. Most importantly doctors are expected to keep up to date with the latest breakthroughs in the field. Like culture, medicine is evolving and there is always more to learn.

We are OK with this, this is not torture, but rather a part of our lifestyles that gives enjoyment and fulfilment. A physician's education does not end with the completion of a medical degree. Unfortunately most people are not aware of this fact. Next time you catch your doctor swamped in a book/journal or on the internet during breaks, be glad because this does not mean they know nothing contrary to the belief.

Good communication skills – A doctor's knowledge is nothing if they are unable to communicate it effectively with  patients and fellow colleaques. Doctors should be like good detectives and be able to extract relevant information from the patient (or other sources of information), and read both verbal and non-verbal cues. It is a well-known fact in the world of medicine that at least 80% of the diagnosis is got from the patient’s history.

Unfortunately most patients are unkeen or impatient on volunteering information but unlike prophets or traditional doctors, medical professionals need to hear your story (and see, feel and test you) for them to make an accurate diagnosis and eventually treatment.

Professional - Doctors have the highest ideals and standards to uphold. 

There is a certain study which reported that most people are not able to differentiate between a doctor's professional and social  life hence the need for doctors  to always be cautious of their conduct in the society e.g social media postings which could easily be mistaken for professional information/advice. Doctors are well trained on the universal medico-legal and ethical issues.

They know the issue of doctor-patient confidentiality like the back of their hand. They should be respectful at all times and give patients autonomy to contribute towards or accept their treatment.

As doctors we understand that we are not police officers or any other law enforcers, our job is to treat patients, equally, and not accuse or judge them.  A professional distance should always be maintained between doctors and patients so that at every point in time patients feel safe under the doctors care. However, these can only be possible if our patients remember their duty to us too. 

Thorough - Doctors are always putting puzzles together trying to come up with diagnoses and best management plans for their patients so they need to take their time and pay attention to detail. Doctors hate failing! And a mistake in the medical field can yield disastrous results. So this huge fear of failure or 'neglect' turns doctors into ‘perfectionists’ and they are always trying to do everything right and delicately. This may also be influenced by the fact that there are a lot of ethical and legal issues involved in the medical field. The rate of litigation is very high, and reasonably so because human life is involved.

Optimistic – The medical field privileges doctors to trust their judgment, thoughts and actions. Doctors need to believe in themselves and their contribution to act timely and save a life. Though some people may mistake this high self esteem for arrogance ,many patients report that the Doctor's confidence (and optimism) gives them confidence too and they find it easier to trust them.This is not to say doctors should act like Gods and pretend they know it all or can perform miracles. We are expected to remain honest and realistic in cases where we do not know, we need help or we simply cannot make a difference.

Critical decision makers –Doctors are faced with making critical decisions on a daily basis including unpopular ones surrounding death. Doctors have been forced to abort babies to save the mother’s life, respect a patients decision not to take life-sustaining treatment, discontinue ineffective treatments or stop the resuscitation procedure after a certain period of time with no response or chances of recovery. Doctors understand their limitations as humans and accept the fact that it is not all patients that can be kept alive. A situation that family members may struggle to come to terms with when faced with (death).

Patient – This is the most important quality that make doctors special. Think about this; for starters doctors are willing to undergo the longest degree ever. This prepares them for the professional life that  awaits them. All the attributes of a good doctor of being able to acquire knowledge for a lifetime, take time to listen attentively, to communicate clearly and educate, and to think about the proper decision comes with an abundance of patience.

Composure - Medical professionals work with the human body everyday and see things that are not so pleasant. Many people think that we undergo training to be heartless, less grossed, less fearful, less phobic etc. But NO, we are humans and go through all the emotions and fears that other people experience. The only difference is we can’t afford to compromise that one goal every doctor has at the back of their mind; saving a life! Somebody has got to do it hence the need to stay calm and collected.

Hardworking - People always need medical care no matter what time of the day or what day of the year. Doctors understand this long before they could even join this honorable profession.

Working in the medical field often means working long and unusual hours and still managing to maintain interest and focus through it all. A weekend, holiday, goodnight sleep does not mean much to a doctor if a human life is involved. That does not mean there is no free time in a doctor's life. It’s just that given their nature of work, time management is very important. Despite these not-so-favorable working hours if you ask many medical professionals what degree they will choose after being in practice for some time, most if not all of them will still say medicine! The job satisfaction is worth it!

Humane – Above all the clinician's  high regard for human life is the secret in managing to be kind, compassionate and caring about the patient all the time. For centuries medicine has depended on the age-old principle of 'first, do no harm'. No matter the situation the doctor finds him/herself in, they would never cause damage or death deliberately. No doctor feels happy if their patient is in pain, or they lose a patient under their watch or care. We do hurt, feel for and think about our patients even outside work. 

Understanding doctors will definitely make it easier for patients to work with their doctors effectively and improve on their relations in the year 2016.

For comments or questions please email HYPERLINK "mailto:agboima@yahoo.com" agboima@yahoo.com



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