Words of wisdom...

Usually when I relay the words of a patient, it's because they made me laugh or were so ridiculously ironic in the context of the situation that most people would have become incontinent in the situation. This isn't one of those times. Suprise...another week at preceptor, another depressing medical story.

WWII veteran in his 80's, presenting to VA Oncology clinic seeking treatment for one of his many cancer related complications. For 80 something, this man has it really well together and the history is going all too smoothly. He relays in exquisite detail the past 20 years of his medical history with exact dates and physician names...better than most 40 year olds I've worked with.

Start the physical and start to get the story about his PICC line, and in the middle of his story the patient starts to lose it. He's so frustrated with the private oncology group currently administering his chemo that he cant help it. Apparently they make him pay in full before he sees the oncologist, 3-4 times per week. During a recent hospitalization, the oncologist asked to do a series of non-invasive tests that the patient assented to, and a marrow biopsy which the patient declined until he talked to his PMD about it. Not five minutes later was the oncologist back to do all of the tests and the biopsy. It's not like you can just sneak in a biopsy without the patient noticing. Anyway, the patient reminded the oncologist that he had not consented the biopsy, that he needed to call his PMD to understand why they needed the biopsy. The oncologist apparently threw a temper tantrum and stormed out of the room.

Long story short, he is VERY dissatisfied with his oncology group treating him like a piece of meat. He feels helpless when dealing with them and the fact that the doctors wouldn't listen to him makes him very unsafe and unsettled. He made sure, in his grandfatherly tone and through the tears of frustration, to tell us to always be sure to listen to our patients, to show empathy and human dignity and honesty to our patients. It was the most touched that I've ever been in dealing with a patient and I hope that his advice never is forgotten forgotten by the two of us.

Just another reminder that the white coat isn't as impenetrable as it seems.


The Post Mistress said...

Well thought out reflection, Luke. I hope you share this experience with your course directors and fellow students during a small group discussion.

Mel said...

"Just another reminder that the white coat isn't as impenetrable as it seems."

Too true.