Allison’s Story – When the Doctor Becomes the Patient

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Session 62

Session 62

In this episode, Ryan and Allison talk about what it’s like when the doctor becomes the patient. Specifically, Allison shares her personal story of being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease,  its impact on her practice and her family, and the most important lessons learned.

This is something we need to understand being the ones who usually are well and who treat patients and that is to try to relate to somebody when you’ve never had that experience before. Becoming a patient when you’re the one used to treating other people’s illnesses certainly gives you a totally new perspective toward patient care.

Today, Allison gives you a huge glimpse of what it’s like to be a patient as we try to bridge the separation between the “well” and the “sick.” You need to understand and reflect on the patients who come to you for help and trying to put yourself in their shoes that we all must strive for if you want to become a better physician.

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Ryan and Allison:

Allison discusses her health condition:

  • Allison started losing weight
  • Running to the bathroom 5-6 times a day and being really sick
  • Focusing too much on patient care and not focusing on herself
  • Realizing that something was not right
  • Calling her primary care physician
  • Going to a gastroenterologist for a consult
  • Going through a colonoscopy
  • Getting diagnosed with Crohn’s disease

From being a physician to becoming a patient:

  • Feeling vulnerable and in need of help
  • Although having a background in medicine but not knowing what specific treatments she needed
  • Not knowing what the future held
  • A humbling experience and having a new perspective

Allison’s silver linings:

  • Having a background in medicine
  • Having a basic understanding about the disease, outlook, and general treatments

Biggest lessons:

  • Try to think what it’s like to be a patient that doesn’t have the resources
  • Going to forums and being able to talk to other people going through the same thing
  • Take the time as a physician about how the patient is feeling, their fears and anxieties. This is part of the treatment.
  • Respond to your patients as immediately as possible.
  • Make friends with the nurses. They’re very nice people who take care of their patients.
  • Meeting a community of other patients with Crohn’s disease who are trying to raise money and awareness.

The different stressors that patients deal with:

Stresses of life that might have led to their diagnosis

Stresses of their diagnosis

Stresses of insurance companies.

  • Seeing medical bills as a whole new level of stress(more like a $10,000 bill that got Allison pulling her hair off)

Stresses of not hearing from your doctor right away

Paternalism versus patient-doctor collaboration:

Paternalism in medicine means that as a patient, you do what the doctor says. No questions asked, just do it.

Patient-doctor collaboration:

  • There is conversation about what works best for the patient. There is patient autonomy where they get to make informed decisions
  • Inform the patient about all of their options.
  • Discuss the pros and cons of each option.
  • You still add in your expertise and your thoughts where you’re guiding them.

How you perceive them as difficult patients may just be patients who are advocating for themselves.

Understand that as a patient pushes a little bit, they’re not being defiant but simply advocating for themselves.We learn so much from patients. Respond to patients in an open-minded manner.

Respect the patient’s decision and support them the best way that you can and in the safest manner possible with all the options laid out.

Don’t make a crack or joke about a patient or what they’re dealing with because you never know what they’re dealing with. Never make blanket statements.

Bridging the gap between the well and the sick:

We’re all human beings.We all suffer from diseases.

We need to be taking care of each other in a mindful manner

Team Challenge

An organization that is part of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America where various groups across the country get together and run a marathon in order  to raise money for research and awareness of the Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and inflammatory bowel disease in general.

Some pieces of advice for premed students:

Understand that patients are vulnerable. They have to deal with a lot of stresses.At the end of the day, it’s human-to-human interaction. Understand their stories and stresses to be able to fully treat them.

Links and Other Resources:

Session 047: Avoiding Burnout as a Premed, Med Student, and Beyond

Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America

Team Challenge – Organic Chemistry Resources & Tutoring

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