Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Doctor's Holiday

I had my shoulder injected today, to treat biceps tendonitis brought on by hauling around the World’s Clingiest Toddler. I was a little nervous, but it didn’t even hurt, and afterward I felt like the Tin Man coming back to life.

I like to be a patient from time to time just to see what it’s like on the Other Side. Of course I don’t get to see things from a true patient perspective; I’m treated somewhat differently when people know I’m a doctor. You might be surprised to know, however, that the treatment is usually worse.

Not intentionally so, of course. See, when treating a fellow health care worker, everyone gets very kid-glovey and hyperconscious of everything they’re doing. So some slightly unpleasant things might not get done – rectal exams, say, or questions about substance use – and some unnecessary things – extra tests that do more harm than good – do. In addition, people tend to assume you know more than you really do. For instance, when I was doing the infertility thing, I missed some important instructions up front because everyone assumed I must know all about this stuff.

Whenever possible I hide the fact that I’m a physician. I got away with this for two days after I had my baby. The second afternoon, one of the aides came in looking a little odd, and finally said shyly, “We didn’t know you were a doctor – you’re so nice.” (Which made me feel good about myself but lousy about my profession.) But because I’d kept it secret, the nurses had felt free to give me very helpful instructions on how to care for my stitches and my baby, information that I might otherwise have missed out on.

Does this happen in other professions?

26 comments:

Meira Voirdire said...

Oh, god bless you! I've been having this pain when I lift my my arm for about three days now and now I know what it is!
Except the last time I went to my doc for tendonitis in my wrist (due to carrying babies) I was hoping for a shot (having consulted Dr.Google & walked in with a diagnosis and treatment suggestions. Don't docs just LOVE that?) instead I got "you'll have to stop holding them that way and ice it 3 times a day for twenty minutes". I told her that, as I was nursing infant twins = 24 nursing sessions/day, this wasn't going to happen. To which she replied "you'll have to make it happen".
Needless to say, I won't be running over to see her, as I can browbeat myself about not icing an injury. Grrrr.

Stephanie said...

I'm a (currently not working) attorney and I get this at times. For example, our accountant asked me to "double check" our taxes for errors before we sent them in. I flipped through the forms in a daze. Not only do I know nothing about tax law, but that's what I was paying him to do - do my taxes right! If he had made a mistake, it would have been very difficult for me to find. I think I made him nervous so asking me to review was his way of compensating.

bj said...

I'm a faculty member in a medical school, and I get this all the time. And, since I'm not a doctor it's freaky, because my field is the visual system, and I'm a biologist, not a physician. So, for example, when my doctor hands me the raw results of genetic testing, and I combine it with my ability to google, we get very very bad results.

bj

Laura said...

does it happen in other professions?
I imagine it might.
When we were having our home built I know we got away with a lot because darling husband is in the biz.
I also know the assumptions and kid glovey feelings you speak of. It has been assumed that being a neonatal intensive care RN makes me a preemie baby expert...even AFTER the baby leaves the NICU...heh-heh...I might have agreed until I brought home my very own ex 24 weeker...BOY was I in for a rude awakening!
It also seems to be assumed that I will do all the yucky, mean nursing care stuff on my own CHILD...like put an ng tube down him, hold him down for a lab draw, IV stick, CT scan...you name it, I have been asked/expected to do it. Thank goodness son's daddy steps in and reminds the doc or nurse that I am our son's mama, not his nurse. It seems I am too nice...again with the kid glovey thing, I guess.
Hope your shoulder feels better.

MJ said...

I'm an editor and people assume that I know every grammatical rule in existence and can spell every word. I have to explain that good editors use books(!)--like dictionaries--to help them.

One of my friends is an internist and I swear she knows everything about all things medical (and a few other things too). She insists this is not true.

cmm said...

I keep my med school status tightly under wraps when I go to the doctor -- I'm just sure that the minute he/she finds out, a pop quiz on antibiotics/fluids/tca cycle will be forthcoming. My husband, bless his heart, announces "my wife is in medical school," as soon as he's in the waiting room, I think. I've stopped going to doctor's appointments with him...

Jennifer said...

As a veterinarian, I have fortunately had good treatment from colleagues who I've taken my pets to - usually surgeons. Most physicians are respectful of me, too, but I guess they figure enough is different to explain the nitty-gritty.

There was one instance in the NICU when the doctor told me that my son had a hydrocele, and I knew what that was, right? And I do, but I was so flustered from sleep deprivation and worry about my son being in the NICU, I got confused with that and HYDROCEPHALY - fortunately he quickly corrected me and didn't hold it against me (and it resolved on its own).

jc_people said...

Actually, now that you are a mommy you will find that other moms, grandmas and so on will tell you something weird their kid did and then say "but of course you know all about THAT" as though all children do the same things. This is especially irritating when the person in question is a (in your estimation) a crappy parent. Lord knows it drives me insane.

Alexa said...

Yes, I am a writer/editor and get the same arcane grammatical questions mj describes. Or people will ask me to edit their poetry, which, for the record? VERY different from prose, and completely out of my area of expertise.

Erin said...

Since my Ph.D. is in pharmacology, all doctors seem to quiz me on the medications they're giving me or my son. How annoying.

My boss's father is a medical dr who has multiple myeloma, and has routinely had to ask his dr's to forget that he is a dr (especially since he's not an oncologist) and treat/explain things to him like he is any other patient. They're apparently afraid that they'll make a mistake in his treatment. I'm sure it's hard to advocate for yourself when you're in that kind of situation.

cluelesscarolinagirl said...

Girlfriend, you KNOW that the fact that I'm a licensed lawyer is keep under Deep Cover when I go to the doctor. Just to keep the nervous "Don't sue me!" laughter under control when I have to get a shot or something.

Nancy said...

I definitely try to keep the lawyer thing under wraps when meeting people for the first time: in part because the reaction is something like, "Oh! Huh." with the dread follow-up question, "So, what sort of law do you practice?" While I'm happy as the next gal to talk about securites and copyright law, but it can feel a touch, a whisper, boring to people not in the field. And who wants to be the one yakking away in the corner about corporate defense?

Equally inauspicious is finding out that the other person is another lawyer: there, not only is there the immediate bottom-sniffing of sizing up quality of firm and law school, but inevitably the topic turns to legal topics and work which pretty much isolates everyone else in the group and before you know it, ERISA law (or something equally horrifying) comes up.

Lisa C. said...

Try working for the telephone company. People think I know everything about telephones, including billing and service issues. However, it does come in handy when talking to the phone company when I'm having issues, because I have advanced knowledge in cutting through phone company bullshit.

It still doesn't get me out of conversations like this at parties:

Annoying Person: What do you do?
Me: I work for Gigantic Telephone Company.
AP: Oh? I get my phone through GTC!
Me: Great.
AP: Hey... can I ask you... you see my phone works great at my office and the park and pretty much everywhere except my house. Why is that?
Me: Probably a weak service area.
AP: Can you fix it.
Me: No, you should probably call customer service.
AP: But, don't you work for GTC?
Me: Yes, but there are certain ways things get reported....
AP: But it works everywhere else!

Etc....

bihari said...

Oh yeah, you can bet I try to leave the fact that I'm an FNP out of the conversation, no matter where I am. Because I don't actually CARE about the hernia surgery the woman next to me on the flight had two years ago, and if I tell her what I do, she's bound to describe it.

However, I have to confess that when our second child had sepsis as a three week old, it was helpful to know what was happening. When he had a fever of 101.7, my husband, who's a doctor, and I both knew immediately what lay ahead: admission, lumbar puncture, blood cultures, IV antibiotics. And when he actually ruled IN for sepsis, it was good to be able to get the shorthand on the labs and all.

Still not an experience I'd care to repeat, though.

ktjrdn said...

I work for a state's department of revenue. I'm a computer programmer. Not only do I get asked tax questions all the time, but I get asked Federal tax questions all the time. Very annoying.

MFA Mama said...

People find out I'm an "English teacher," which sounds simplistic to me although "college professor" is inaccurate since I am technically "only" an "adjunct instructor" and "Dr. MFA Mama" is inaccurate to the point of insult or condescension if you ask me but probably I'm just crazy...anyway they find out I do what I do and immediately go "oh I'm terrible at grammar" or "I don't know any Shakespeare" or "I'd show you my writing, but..." and I'm like "just fucking talk, I'm human and sometimes I have to look things up while grading, and I don't have a faux-British accent or anything pretentious like that and PLEASE stop calling me "MRS. MFA Mama" because it makes be feel ooooooooold...

Mignon said...

People find out I was an engineer and quickly find someone else to talk to.

E. said...

I feel your pain MFA mama. When people find out I teach English and/or that I have Ph.D. in English, they sometimes get "better watch what I say" (which I hate) or ask me arcane grammatical questions (which I often don't know how to answer. Believe it or not, grammar was never touched on at any point in my Ph.D. program.)

It will be interesting when my toddler goes to school to see how his teachers treat me as a fellow teacher. I know when I have a parent in P-T conferences, it's either wonderful b/c they have some insight into how challenging my job is, or terrible b/c they want to critique my teaching in ways that most parents wouldn't feel qualified to do (and if they teach a different subject or level I'm especially annoyed by this).

Given what you're saying, DoctorMama, I think I would try to hide my doctorness, too, were I a doc. I always want as much information as my doctors will give me, sometimes more than they're willing to give me.

Sorry for the longwinded comment, but I'm making up for lost time, having been cut off from your blog for a week during Spring Break. My computer at home is a Mac and internet explorer shuts down every time I try to click on DoctorMama. (I'm at the PC in my office currently.) Anyone else ever have this problem w/ this particular blog and Macs? (It's happened on at least one other Mac I've tried on...)

gingajoy said...

i find that my poor grammar and propensity to swear grossly in public normally veils my "true identity" as an english prof quite nicely. ;-)

seriously, like the folks above me--i also get the "i need to watch how i speak thing." a double whammy, i *do* have an english accent (being born and bred there, but living here) which can compound the issue. even though i speak with the british equivalent of white-trash trailer speak. (people who imitate me make me sound, "gor blimey," like eliza dootlittle or sumink).

Jo said...

You should try working with computers. I've been at parties, and they find out what I do immediatly try to take me to their study to fix the problems that they are having with their computer. Aside from the fact that I charge $50 an hour to do this outside of work, it seems to me to be the computer equivalent of pulling down your pants for a doctor..

I will admit that I am now very careful about asking questions for other professionals though.

DoctorMama said...

e. -- re: blogger & macs -- IE is essentially a dead browser now; it's unsupported by Apple. You need to download Firefox. I use Firefox mostly for blogging, Safari for other stuff.

ccg, nancy, stephanie -- you're right, it must be awful to go the doctor as a lawyer! I can SO imagine the nervousness/bad jokes. And nancy -- "it can feel a touch, a whisper, boring to people not in the field" -- hee hee.

mignon, you don't get the "well I'm sure I don't have to explain the controls to your satellite tv to you, after all, you're an ENGINEER"?

meira -- you know, I often do like it when folks come in w/ treatment suggestions. Sometimes it's pretty reasonable, and even when it's not, I at least know what page they're on.

bihari -- ooh, we were so aware of the fever before eight weeks massive workup including LP issue ... we were glad to pass that "milestone" by. Must have been terrifying.

jennifer -- hydrocephalus! -- we sort of get the reverse at the vet. But it can help ... they let us take equipment home to jam a GIGANTIC subQ catheter into our cat a few times a day -- they didn't realize that we had never seen or even imagined such a thing was possible.

And all you fellow English teachers/editors (former in my case) -- I know, right? BUT: admit it -- you ARE judging everyone's grammar left and right. (My pet peeve: "less" when it should be "fewer.")

Becky said...

I was a preschool teacher, so I'm curious to see how my sons' future preschool teachers act, assuming I tell them.
BUT- what I really want to do here is ask really nicely, or beg, for some of those stories about stupid patients you taunted me with in Julies comments. please.

Orange said...

People don't give me much crap related to my editorial work. But if they see me working on a crossword puzzle, there are several possible comments:

1. "I can't do crosswords at all." (Translation: You nerdy freak.)
2. "My grandmother liked to do crosswords." (You must be really boring.)
3. "Do you use a crossword dictionary?" (Please tell me you're not smarter than I am.)
4. "Oh, I love those suduko puzzles!" (I am too inattentive to see that it's sudoku, not suduko, and I totally can't do crosswords at all. But I feel smarter when I do sudoku than when I do word searches, which are the only kind of word puzzles I can actually solve.)

sozzled said...

a slight tangent along this line. I was surprised when my pastor admitted to occasionally going to a different church; not wearing his clerical collar so he could simply go and worship like everyone else. It hadn't occurred to me that clergy might need to be pastored to as well...

DrSpouse said...

I'm an academic psychologist, though I use my PhD title for most purposes as it's easier than getting people to use Ms, or explaining that yes-we're-married-no-we-have-different-last-names. So sometimes medical people will ask me what sort of doctor I am. Psychologists, however, usually have a good idea of what level of knowledge I'll have about their speciality, if it isn't mine, and also appreciate that I might not be a clinical psychologist nor, funnily enough, a Freudian psychotherapist.

thistles said...

I'm also a psychologist....almost. I've got my Masters but I'm also in the last legs of my dissertation (which I'm doing while simultaneously raising a 10-month-old!)

In my dating life I often wished I could pretend to be something else. People either proceed to tell me the story of their family drama or get all nervous about talking to me like I'm going to psychoanalyze them just for fun.