Friday, January 15, 2010

A Less than Healthy Experience...

We recently had a patient write us with a troubling account of a doctor's visit. Her story is disturbing on a number of different levels. Read on...

Back in November, I visited my PCP for a yearly visit and confessed to her that I have been experiencing severe night sweats for the last six months. She had no idea why this would be, especially considering I am in superior overall health. To help find a solution, she ordered some blood work. Results showed that I had extremely low blood sugar, and she scheduled me for an appointment with an endocrinologist.

After waiting two months to finally see this endocrinologist, I went to the appointment with hopes of getting a solution to my troubling problem. When the doctor appeared in the waiting area and began a conversation with me, the phone rang. As the phone continued to ring, the doctor proceeded to put his head in his hands and say out loud, “I want to quit.” Of course, this was a sign of things to come.

The doctor told me that I was basically a one in a million case and didn’t know what my problem was. He didn’t want to send me for a cat scan to see if I had a tumor on my pancreas because the radiologist might want to do more tests. However, he did want me to do fasting blood work. I then asked, “So if my blood sugar comes back low again, or normal, how do the results help us solve my problem?” “They won’t” he said to me. I inquired further, “Ok, so what am I supposed to do to help stop the sweating?” “Learn to live with it” was his reply.

Learn to live with it?! I then started to cry and became angry. I exclaimed that I had to change clothes nightly and wash sheets constantly – that isn’t something anyone wants to live with! I told him how embarrassed I was to even have company over because of a sweat smell in my room – never mind engaging in any sort of romantic relationship and having someone stay the night. The doctor said to me, “I’ve never heard of a guy leaving a girl because of some sweating.” I got increasingly angry, and he slowly backed out the room leaving me alone in tears with no hope of solving my problem.

I know not every doctor has every answer, but I’d hope they would help find someone who might (and if they didn’t, not bluntly state “live with it”). How would you like to wake up in the middle of the night soaked head-to-toe, Doctor? I’m sure you wouldn’t be too happy to live that. I know I deserve better healthcare than this, and with the aid of friends I am on the search to find a new endocrinologist and, hopefully, a solution to my problem. I feel sorry for those people who might accept answers like this and continue to live with serious health issues. We all need to continue to advocate for the patient-centered healthcare that we deserve.

What do you think? If you have had a similar experience, we'd like to hear about it.


  1. What makes me sad about reading this account is that it doesn't even surprise me. I have witnessed "unprofessional" behavior in all levels of medicine, from chiefs of service to office receptionists. I have also heard the excuses for it when I have tried to complain--"He just doesn't have very good bedside manner." The way this patient was treated would not be tolerated in any other industry that I can think of.

    I work in the field of computer software, and even programmers who only write code are expected to have better interpersonal skills than this doctor demonstrated. So why is bad behavior acceptable in healthcare, where patients go for healing?

  2. You truly deserve more sensitive and human care than this. Let's face it, I know I have bad moments in my day where a breather really helps me from not taking my frustration out on somebody else (such as my family or co-workers). It makes me wonder if our healthcare system's revolving door is set up so that such breathers are not available to our providers and the patients suffer. I will admit that my primary care has had moments where she has been frustrated with her staff, yelled at them and I could hear it, then she was more impatient with me. The overscheduling does not allow for self-care, which interferes with patient care.

    That being said- there is NO excuse for treating you this poorly and I am sorry for your experience.



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