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?