Culture

Ignoring the doctor’s advice: why not?

 

By now, most are aware of how Hilary Clinton was diagnosed with pneumonia on a Friday, was told to rest up, and she kept on working through a Sunday. I don’t know about you, but 9 out of 10 times, when sick, I keep on working.

A few years back I landed at JFK airport after a difficult trip back from Australia. Twelve hours later I was in the emergency room. 20 hours after that I was at urgent care. I had a parasite, was severely dehydrated to the point of being in horrible pain, and was woozy from Cipro. I tried to rest. I rested till 9am and then I got up and worked each day thereafter for a week despite feeling like I was going to explode. Should I have rested more? Sure. But I honestly didn’t think it would make that much of a difference. Plus, I had stuff that needed to get done. And no, there were no others who could do that particular work. Life is not fair and it is not easy for a grand majority of us.

I have ignored plenty of medical advice from doctors. I should keep that a secret considering I’m in the healthcare field. But you will keep my secret, right? But besides being in the field, I’m human. Here’s the deal.
We motivate ourselves to make an appointment. Sometimes having to wait weeks to see a particular doctor. We go because we are told we should do so. Going to the doctor will help make one get better, supposedly. You finally get the appointment and make it to the doctor’s office. You are seen for maybe 10 minutes and during that time they may or may not pretend to check your throat and ears. Then they readily admit they are not too sure what’s wrong with you. And then you wonder why did you even bother going in the first place. You get a prescription. Deep down you wonder if it will work considering the doctor didn’t really know what was wrong. You notice that the prescription information warns you that you will become drowsy, at best. At worse, you can have a heart attack per the warning labels.  So, you are supposed to take this medicine that will make you a walking zombie and it may or may not work and you have work to get done. At that point you may very well second guess your doctor’s advice. You decide to live on the edge just like this LA model posing for her photo shoot.

I am not advocating completely ignoring medical advice. That would be unethical and unsound. I am just noting that we have many competing thoughts and priorities. We sometimes mess up in not following through on medical advice.

This morning I started my intensive physical therapy in the hopes of not needing to have surgery. I am extremely motivated to follow the guidance set forth by both my orthopedic surgeon and physical therapy. Yet, even with extreme motivation I forget to do certain exercises at night and also remain skeptical of the advice to get back on the elliptical machine. I forget my exercises at times because I’m extremely tired from work. Straight up. I’m skeptical because I’m afraid. I’m afraid if I get on the elliptical I will injure myself in a worse way and I really don’t want that surgery. It’s a psychological catch-22.

Sometimes we “psych” ourselves into believing things will get better on their own. A cold eventually goes away, right? We look up our ailments and use our Internet searches as second opinions. As a healthcare provider at large, I can promise myself to do better in following medical advice. But sometimes I don’t keep my own promises to myself. That gummy worms bag in my pantry is proof of that.

7 replies »

  1. I totally agree with this, and it’s a relief to read it from a healthcare professional 😉 I think there’s a balance between taking the advice of professionals and also trusting that you know yourself best. I feel as though I know when I need to rest, and when it’ll stress me out more to fall behind on stuff so I might as well do it! And I agree too that there’s definitely an element of psychology there – at least for minor ailments. I can definitely talk myself in and out of symptoms and side effects, so the best thing for me is to tell myself I’m not sick ever, and hope my body listens 😉

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  2. My story would make many lose faith in many doctors and health professionals. Can’t talk about it yet as we are seeking legal advice and approaching the press. What I would like to say is that I wish there were many more real life doctors like Hugh Laurie’s Dr House. Doctors like this character who not only admit they don’t know what’s wrong -nothing wrong with that, who knows everything?- but critically, will STRIVE to find out what could be wrong, and do a bit of work; join up the dots instead of resting on their titles. I bow to these doctors. They get my respect. I think you have a lot more doctors like this across the pond than we do here in the UK. Doctors don’t always get it right. So, I say, trust your gut. If we didn’t trust ours and if we didn’t do the detective work ourselves, our eldest would most likely be dead by now.
    I’m afraid doctors and health professionals aren’t too popular with me:( Maybe I shouldn’t be on your site? Though, I do like your posts 🙂
    I think resting in bed, twiddling your thumbs is ok for ten minutes maybe an hour or so, but if your brain is racing with things to do and it is hampering any quality ‘rest’ then you just become poorly AND unhappy. I’d rather be poorly and happy. Thanks for your post.

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  3. This is a very candid post. People are disillusioned with the medical profession, and that’s not surprising. Hospitals were run by doctors until corporate hospitals run by people with an MBA (rather than an MD or MBBS) appeared here in the early nineties. I have avoided working in them so I didn’t have to ‘generate revenue’ for the hospital by ‘disposing of patients’ in the amount of time stipulated by them to ‘meet targets’. I can say it’s been worth it, based on patients’ progress and feedback.

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  4. Another sign that, thanks to the internet I guess, we have all had to become our own medical advisers. In addition, I like to remind people who complain about their doctor or doctors not being able to diagnose and/or treat them correctly or effectively that these people are only human beings, like themselves. They are not omnipotent or omniscient and again, thanks to the internet, it sometimes requires a superhuman effort by even skilled and highly trained and motivated medical professionals to even attempt to keep up with new developments.

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