Bedside Manner is Essential

As a trained Social Worker, I was taught a lot about how to appropriately treat clients while working with them.  There is a mix of respect and boundaries that need to be balanced in order to be effective.  I remember working with children and families in Dove Springs, the largest Hispanic community in Austin, mostly immigrant and Spanish speaking.  Although, my Spanish was not always the best and I've since lost my ability to speak it very well at all, I noticed that sometimes all the women wanted was someone to listen to them with open arms and a nonjudgmental stance.  I could understand most of what they would say, coming into my office in tears, and was sometimes able to offer insight, but mostly it was just being able to talk openly that made them feel better.

I strive to always treat my clients with respect and allow them to feel non-judgement.  Likely, they experience their own self-judgement over issues related to their body, their health, their nutrition, you name why add a layer of scrutiny to that?  My own experience as a patient in the medical community this year has unfortunately been less than savory.  I'll share two instances not as complaints, but rather as moments of how poor bedside manner can make any patient/client feel dis-empowered and even a little dumb.  

The first experience was just a few months ago.  I was trying the IUD, a form of birth control that gets inserted into your uterus and can stay in for 3-5 or even 10 years.  Some are hormonal and others are not.  Being a highly sensitive and body centered individual,  I should have known that the hormonal option wouldn't be a good fit for me but I opted to try it because the other one intensifies menstruation.  A month after having it, I noticed higher levels of irritability, nausea, deeper levels of sadness and a prickly feeling surrounding my entire body that could only be explained by hormones. 

I made an appointment to get it removed and my original gynecologist, who I loved, was not available so I opted to be with another woman because I didn't want to keep it in any longer.  She asked me what my symptoms were and I listed them off.  She looked at me kind of concerned and told me that usually because the dosage of hormone is so low it shouldn't be having such a profound effect on me and that only her 'most sensitive' clients noticed.  She then urged me to keep it in for 3 more months to give it time to adjust.  And then she said, "well, then what do you expect to use for birth control?"  The woman was clearly coming from a place of judgement and wasn't really willing to hear me the first time I said that I really wanted it out.  It would have worked for me so much better had she just said, "that's ok!  I understand.  Though it's rare to be affected this profoundly, it does happen and I believe you.  Let's take it out."  But that's not at all how it went.

The second example happened yesterday.  My throat was getting a lot worse and I knew it was strep.  I had strep symptoms very similar to this a few months ago and it appears to have come back again with a vengeance.  I went to a minute clinic at CVS and the doctor there did a strep test on me and it came back negative but that's pretty common with rapid strep tests.  She also tested me for mono which came back negative as well.  She told me that if I was sick, I should consider taking a leave of absence from work for a while and consider getting a job as a cashier.  Now, no offense to cashiers, but I doubt it's helpful to hear a doctor say that you should just drop all you big plans because of an infection that can likely be treated with antibiotics.  She then used a lot of fear tactics on me and then told me about how difficult it is to find a job in Austin and none of this mattered.  She wasn't even able to prescribe antibiotics to me because they, at the clinic, could not just write a script based on appearances.

I went to the Urgent Care and was met by a much lovelier nurse and a less alarmist doctor, which put me at ease.  Maybe I wouldn't need to become a cashier after all.  He gave me a prescription for Penicillin, which is very powerful stuff and I took the first pill last night.  My throat, though still inflamed does not feel like it's full of knives.  It is a much more favorable experience for me as a patient to be received in a non-judgmental manner, where fear tactics are not used and where I don't feel hopeless.

It is my hope, as a practitioner in the healing arts, to offer only the most open, the most loving human to human connection.  Shame, doubt, and blame have no space in my office.  I was speaking to this exact issue with my Aunt who is dealing with medical community herself at the moment and she said, the perfect combination of healthcare provider is both knowledgeable and a nice person.   Let's aim for that.