I recently stumbled upon a writing exercise
completed by a patient who participated in the “Writing is Good Medicine”TM, program, which I
created to help patients put words to their experience of living with illness.
Participants were encouraged to share their writing with family and healthcare
providers in order to open communication about issues and concerns. For one
exercise I posed the question, “What do you expect from your doctors?”
patient, who I will refer to as Diane, wrote, “Some patients seem to have
unrealistic expectations but a real need to know that someone cares about them
and their problems. In a way they may be asking their doctor to create the
illusion that he or she cares. Although this concept has an element of comic
relief, the effort and time a doctor spends listening to a patient and creating
a sense that the patient has been adequately cared for develops a win-win
situation for both doctor and patient. Especially, if the patient believes that
he or she has been cared for and the doctor feels fulfilled in that the patient
has been helped. The initial thought of creating an illusion becomes an actual
act of caring.”
Diane’s words made me think about basic
elements for building a meaningful doctor-patient relationship. She seems to be
implying that the act of listening can create an illusion of caring, which may be
enough for her. Yet, Diane’s view overlooks aspects of a doctor-patient
relationship that may be important to others. Of course, satisfaction or
disappointment with care would depend on your expectations.
act of listening enough? If not, what do you expect from your doctor?