Lessons I’ve Learned From Both Good and Bad Healthcare Providers
It was 2 a.m., and I was waiting to have my nose packed for a bleed that had been going on for hours, a result of blood thinners and oxygen that I used to experience from time to time. I remember hoping to get back to my college dorm and squeeze in a little sleep before my nursing exam that morning. This was all bad enough, but what makes that visit so memorable is how awful my interactions with doctors were.
After 22 years of battling chronic illness, I’m surprised that these small moments still remain with me. But maybe I shouldn’t be. After all, our experiences with healthcare providers shape how we feel about the quality of care we’re receiving. Yet how can I feel good when someone seems more preoccupied with a wart on my foot than a high-risk medication swap that landed me in the hospital in the first place? Or when I wake up to find I’m being prodded and studied by a group of people who wish to learn more about my rare illness?
Maybe these interactions can simply be attributed to poor bedside manner. My family and I can laugh about some of those experiences now, but there were times when we left meetings in tears, and I felt that my value as a human being was being ignored. There were times when I felt hopeless about what we were being told about my future.
As a young woman, I found it difficult to understand what kind of expectations I should set for myself. These types of experiences left scars, and while I wasn’t in any increased danger because of them, I do believe they affected my ability to advocate effectively for good treatment, a better quality of life, and a better future.
Learning to be an advocate for my health
Based on my experiences, I believe that some providers could be more open to understanding a patient’s boundaries and preferences, and patients could be less timid about requesting a different provider if things aren’t going well.
That’s not an easy step to take, of course, because it’s easier just to grin and bear it, as I sometimes have. But I’ve regretted doing that, and as I get older and become more responsible for my health, I better understand my need to feel safe and supported with the care I receive.
In an ideal world, all healthcare providers would be lovely people with a high level of emotional intelligence. Unfortunately, examples of poor bedside manner and a lack of empathy aren’t that hard to find. That said, wonderful, intelligent, and supportive providers do exist, of course, and I’ve been lucky to receive care from many of them.
Each patient will have her own set of preferences and priorities for that perfect provider. It is worth seeking them out, because they are responsible for our long-term care. We don’t have to click with them at every level of personality, but we should always seek someone we trust to have our interests in mind.
To avoid feeling overwhelmed, I recommend developing a sense of humor and a quick wit. My family and I recall most of these interactions as building blocks for resilience along my journey, and less than ideal encounters have helped me to appreciate the many amazing healthcare providers I’ve been fortunate to work with through the years.
And I have to say, it’s both the good and the bad who have gotten me this far.
Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.