“I just love my doctor!”
How often has someone said this to you? How often have you said it yourself?
If you’re living with a chronic condition, then chances are you have an ongoing relationship with one or more physicians. You may have a long history together, spanning over quite a few years, share stories about your personal lives, remember each other on birthdays or holidays… you know, the kinds of things we do with people we care about. Your physician may also have provided you with some welcome emotional support, when you were first diagnosed, or when you have hit rough spots along the road.
Being able to communicate with your doctor is important, that’s for sure. A collegial, friendly relationship enhances trust. And when you and your doctor trust each other, you are more likely to be open and honest in your communication. That’s all good.
When “Love” Prevents You From Being Objective
But is it love? And if you do love your doctor, are there times when your affection for your doctor gets in the way of your objectivity?
Here are some of my concerns when I hear the love word used to describe a patient-physician relationship.
Love doesn’t ask questions. It’s really important to constantly question your doctor. What does that mean? Why are making this recommendation? What are the alternatives? Asking questions is how you learn about your condition and its treatment. Questioning also helps to assure that your physician is considering all the options. Make sure your affection for your doctor doesn’t keep you from questioning a recommendation you aren’t fully comfortable with. Questioning your doctor shouldn’t feel like betrayal.
Love can create dependency. Your physician is certainly a trusted team member in managing your condition, but he/she should not be the only input into your treatment. Being an empowered patient means taking responsibility for your own health care by placing yourself in charge of the information-gathering and the decision making. Do your research, get a second opinion as needed. Trust your doctor but keep your own counsel. That’s not betrayal either.
Love wants more time together. It’s only natural that when you just really like being with someone, you’ll want to spend as much time with them as possible. This can lead to wasting your physician’s time and your time, as well as contribute to the increasing cost of health care, which leads to high insurance premiums. So before you make that call, ask yourself if you have a legitimate medical need or want some reassurance from someone you can rely upon to be on your side.
Love can cloud your judgment. The doctor with the best bedside manner, the one you most connect with emotionally, the one you feel you have the most in common with, may not be the best doctor to treat your condition. Sure, you don’t want to go to a doctor who is unfriendly or abusive. However, as you make decisions about healthcare providers, keep in mind that when your love button is pressed, you may be less likely to be objective.
And let’s face it. It’s not about love. You and your doctor are in a professional relationship. He or she possesses knowledge and skills that you need to help you stay as health as possible. You, in turn, are charged with evaluating whether this is the best person to treat you. Your doctor works with you but also for you. You arrange for your doctor be paid. It’s that simple. Granted, personal chemistry is a desirable aspect of this relationship. But it isn’t the basis for your relationship.
You and your doctor. If you catch yourself using the love word when you describe your relationship with your doctor, think twice. There are more ways than one to respect someone. Make sure that your foremost reason for respecting your doctor is his/her knowledge and skills. That’s what’s going to help to stay healthy.