What Being a Parent Taught Me About Being a Doctor
Beyond the medical knowledge I attained in school and throughout training, almost everything I know about how to be a good doctor I have learned from my experience as a mother.
As a parent of a toddler, I am constantly trying to balance my desire to teach and guide my daughter with her desire to showcase her knowledge and independence. I have often found myself struggling with my own instinct to hold on tightly when I should be allowing her to take chances, which may lead her to stumble and fall or discover a new skill she otherwise might not have known. It would certainly be easier for me to tell her exactly what she should do and how she should do it, but oftentimes, the more I try to impose my will, the less she wants to listen. And, more importantly, the more she tries on her own, the more she cares to succeed. Likewise, we (doctors) must not underestimate that what we know may not be as important as the growth and understanding that a patient can gain from self-discovery.
Like the relationship between a young parent and a child, the relationship between a doctor and a patient is fraught with a complex balance of give and take. The foundations of both of those relationships – trust – takes time to establish. As a full-time physician, I am often frustrated by the lack of time that I have versus the time I think I need to be with my daughter. Likewise, lack of time is often one of the most frustrating limiting factors in healthcare. We must carefully fit a patient’s problem list into a set time slot or risk losing efficiency and patient satisfaction.
For this reason, we have learned to rely on electronic medical records (EMRs) as a blueprint so that we can centralize information and keep track of progress over time. What’s more, there are even apps available that allow patients to send HIPPA-protected health information directly to a physician’s office or allow doctors to correspond with patients during off-hours. The implications of this change for patients’ wellbeing are tremendous and will allow us to be accessible more easily, thus strengthening the relationship even further.
Another important lesson I have learned from being a parent is the importance of listening. Sometimes, we (doctors) may think we know better simply because of the experiences we have had and time we have spent studying a given problem. But we must not forget that our knowledge may fall on deaf ears to a patient who does not believe we have heard them with regards to their interests and goals. Setting our own agendas during a patient visit, when there is already so little time to begin with, doesn’t allow for patients to feel like they are truly in control of their care.
While my experiences as a mother have taught me a great deal, I in no way mean to imply that I treat my patients like children. The doctor-patient relationship is unique and complex, and it requires both creativity and adaptability to be cultivated for success.
American Resident Project fellows receive compensation from Anthem for sharing their perspectives on this blog. Fellows views are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Anthem, Inc.