Showing posts with label family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family. Show all posts

Thursday, May 21, 2015

How Much Do You Share With Your Patients?

Genmedmom here.

In my practice, there are two kinds of doctors. There are those who don't display even one personal photo in their exam rooms, and then, there are those that do. Me? I proudly display a collage of recent kids' photos. Occasionally, a photo will include me and/or Hubby, or our cats.

I've found that the photos can "break the ice", meaning serve as benign fodder for a softer, friendlier discussion in an otherwise sterile, somewhat scary environment.

Let's face it: a bleachy-smelling standard-hospital-grade exam room, where the cold speculum and bristly Pap brushes are laid right out on the chux, is not a fun place to be sitting twiddling your thumbs. No People magazine can change that.

How do I know this? Hey, I have a doctor, too.

What I've personally experienced is that decorations or photos can help to create a warmer, more inviting environment. I'll immediately feel like this provider is confident enough to share of themselves; that they're open to connect with me as a fellow human being.

The exam rooms that don't feature any kind of personal touch may as well be alien spaceship exam rooms: What part of me is going to get probed?

The worst exam rooms I've encountered are at my GYN's office: almost completely tiled without any objects left out in view whatsoever. I feel like a lobster in a pound. They may get high marks from OSHA and The Joint Commission, but I sit there increasingly uneasy, freezing in my flimsy paper gown. Even our dentist does better job with environmental emotional regulation.

Our pediatrician wins the prize for personal adornments. He's got family photos, his kids' artwork, obviously his choice of decorations (all sports-themed), and entertaining items like books and toys strewn all about. Not only am I made to feel more at ease, but my kids are, as well.

Of course, items and photos invite questions and conversation. I think this is good, and I tend to be very open and honest with my patients. Hey, I'm querying them deeply about their relationships, jobs, bad habits, fertility plans, and private parts. These are all topics that are socially prohibited in usual, out-of-the-doctor's-office conversation. I can at least share that my kids are in preschool and my husband works for the Patriots.

Some patients ask more, and I have real conversations with these folks. My general rules of thumb are: no personal chit-chat until the patient's issues and concerns are addressed. No shooting the breeze when I'm running behind. No sharing of my own medical issues. (Well, I'll sometimes share that I used to smoke cigarettes and that it was hard for me to quit, too.)

In seven years of practicing in this style, I haven't had anyone complain that I waste their time or overshare. My colleagues can tell you that I run on time, more or less. (More than most.) At this point, my regular patients excitedly ask for updates as soon as I walk in the door. How are the kids, how old are they now? Still have those huge cats? What does your husband thank about Deflategate?

Obviously, I'm all for sharing. heck, I blog.

What do other docs think?


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Being introduced


My mother, not in medicine, and this mother in medicine, went to have a biopsy.  Her biopsy.  By a surgeon.  I am not a surgeon.  Nor am I a doctor for adults.  My day to day is infants, toddlers, school-aged children, tweens, and adolescents.  And medical students.  

How does your mom introduce you to her doctors?  My mother introduced me to the surgeon whom she herself was just meeting at that moment, as her daughter.  Sounds reasonable.  Started off well.  Though this was immediately followed by, “she’s a pediatrician.”  I paused briefly at the stark declaration, and softly came up with, “…who knows nothing about what you do.” 

Why did I demur?  Why so modest?  The surgeon and I might indeed speak the same language (though she much more tersely).  But I need not hover, make her nervous, nor imply that the reason I’m there is because I’m a doctor too.  The reason I was there was to support my mother.  As a daughter.

But alas, I guess I was also there because I do speak, or at least understand, that language.

[Results not in yet.  Somehow felt okay to post here on MIM in the interim.]

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Guest Post: A comment from a daughter

This was left in our comments section. We think it is worth sharing.


Being the 18-year-old daughter of an OB-GYN about to leave for college...I want to tell you all something, and I hope that it will mean something to you. Whether you forget it, remember it, hate it so much that you yell at me in comments afterward, or love it so much that you post it on your refrigerator, I think it just needs to be said. I am terribly sorry for intruding on this site, and I do not remember even exactly how I found it. Still, I am glad that I did for the sake of this message. I only wish I could post it on the main page, however intrusive that may be, and that you all might understand the message even if I don't articulate very well (and I know I often do not when I try to sort through my thoughts). The OB-GYN in my family is my dad...but I think that it has less to do with which parent is the doctor in the family and more to do with how much we, the children, can't help but love our parents.

My dad was the head of the department at a hospital down here for 7 years. He worked even more then than now. He had wanted kids for years but waited because my mom wanted to work on her career a little more and settle (she was a bit wild and decided to quit her job [special ed teacher] after my older brother [1st baby] was born.)

Growing up, I don't remember much time with him. ...but I remember that we'd lovingly pack up a little of everything we had for dinner and put it on a plate, cover it in plastic wrap, and only then would we serve ourselves the food, so that he could "share" dinner with us, even though some nights he wouldn't be home until long after we were sleeping.

I remember him forgoing eating that dinner we saved some nights--no matter how hungry he was after being held late, or even if he only got there by rushing home for a short stop while he was on-call--so that he could give us three our night-time baths and tuck us in (we all fit in one bed back then, WITH him to tell us a story of growing up so far away in NYC up north, of all places!)

I remember that waiting eagerly for the time when his one day off a week after his on-call night would be "my" day, and I could spend time with him one-on-one. (We took turns, though I admit I was impatient for mine.)

I remember throwing tantrums and getting upset, with him yelling and me yelling...and looking back on it, I realize that I was just a little kid being a little kid, and he was just my exasperated father trying to get me to behave after a 36-hour day of being on-call and scared for my brother with one of his famous, crazy, one-oh-six-degree-Fahrenheit-breaking-point fevers keeping him worried while some poor mother cursed at him while birthing her baby and apologized afterward, crying and laughing, saying she didn't mean it while hugging a wriggling red baby with silly hair.

I remember eating a snack at 5PM and taking my shower early when I was just a little bit older to hold myself over while we waited for him to get home at 8PM before eating dinner and rushing off to bed.

I remember my dad taking time off work to come meet up with us for a week of vacation up north to visit some family. Then he’d have to fly back for work, spawning memories of the miserable, lonely phone calls we and my mother had with him while we were driving back, visiting more family all the way down the coast back to home.

I remember my dad getting in his scrubs to take us to the doctor and explaining everything he discussed with said doctor to us in words we could understand--whether it was the optometrist, the pediatrician, or the radiologist, respectively.

I remember crying because I thought my dad couldn't make it to my award ceremony, spelling bee, or school play; I also remember various feelings of relief, satisfaction, and sometimes more crying when my mom would video tape it and I'd watch it with him later, or when I'd see him rush in--still in scrubs--from the back in the middle of the competition, or when my teachers snuck him in backstage even though I had already calmed down because they knew I'd be so relieved and happy that he had made it after all.

I see now that my dad is overworked, overstressed, doesn't exercise well enough (not that he has much time to hit the gym, with my grandmother with Alzheimer's living with us and also requiring tons of care), and that he has always, always been there for me, loved me with all his heart (and these things count for big-brother and little-sister, too!), and has always wished he could have even more time with all of us (and still does, especially with my brother away at college).

My dad works a hard and difficult job with terrible hours because he feels it's his calling. Even when it's very difficult, there's a certain joy in it for him, in the miracle, as I'm sure you all understand. His partners are also loving parents with the same kinds of challenges of having families and careers--and all but two of the six others are women, a mother/doctor group may be interested to hear. However, I also realize that my dad works so hard also because...he loves us. Not only is he giving other people the chance to have the wonders he has, but the hard work he does makes sure that my mother can care for us and her slowly dying mother with Alzheimer's, despite those difficulties (our other grandma also lives with us, but is perfectly sound of mind, if not of eyesight). He keeps food on our table so, though things with insurance companies have made things more difficult over the years, we have never worried about food as many Americans now do--including ones nearby, ones in my school, or friends that I visit. We have never wanted for clothes to wear, a place to live, or even "extras" like a second car to drive--meaning we never had to walk the just-over-a-mile road to our school, but that we could go by car (since we're too close for bus). We have the luxury of a really cool PS2 that was an incredible gift for the three of us years ago and still serves us remarkably well for its generous age--not to mention an assortment of games we've "collected" through the years; I might add that those came mostly from birthday and holiday gifts from "Mom and Dad" that I'm sure my parents bought with the money my Dad works hard to earn.

I've lived a very privileged life full of experience and love, and I feel blessed to have had both of my parents. They are strong people who have raised me remarkably well, so I feel I have the great advantages of knowing right from wrong, the importance of learning and respect for others, and the much-forgotten value of courtesy and good manners. (And that those last two count even when things are bad or you're in a bad mood. We're all only human, but so's everyone else. Then again, I’m sure he sometimes wishes his patients taught their children that way, or lived it themselves, too...)

On behalf of children everywhere with doctor parents who worry, fret, and guilt themselves over the time they have to spend apart from their children...I want you to know that we love you, and even if it's hard when we're little to understand what you do, or why you're gone so long sometimes (though we tend to vaguely grasp even then the idea that "work" is very hard and busy and keeps you away even though you love us very much and wish all the time that you were here with us), we're proud of you and love you very much. We do our best to understand and accept these struggles with you, and we see better while looking back from older ages all of the sacrifices and difficulties you've endured for us, and just how much you've always loved us--and at all ages young to old, we love to hear you say it on nights when you're around to tuck us into bed.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Second generation

I'm in a somewhat unique position in that not only am I a doctor-in-training with a daughter, but I am also the daughter of a former doctor-in-training.

My mother returned to medical school when I was three years old, living out a dream she had held for the last ten years as she taught biology to high school students and then became a stay at home mom after I was born. Unfortunately, the dream didn’t include her marriage falling apart a year later, turning her into a single mother.

I don’t have many memories from before my mother went back to school. As long as I can remember, I was always the kid who had to stay at the afterschool program or get picked up by a babysitter. I hated the afterschool programs--I always had one eye on the door, waiting for my mother to show up. And even on weekends, I couldn’t count on having her to myself, although I did have fun when she brought me to work with her on Saturday mornings.

Residency was really rough for us. Due to all the late nights and overnights and moonlighting for extra cash, we had to hire a live-in nanny. The nanny moved into my bedroom and I moved into my mother's bedroom. I really adored my nanny (who coincidentally had the same first name as my mother), and that was a good thing since she was the adult I spent the most time with.

My mother and I were always struggling to spend more time together. When I was in day camp during the summer, one day she sneaked out of work early to surprise me and bring me home. I was overjoyed. But as soon as we got home, someone noticed she wasn’t at work and called her to return. Back to camp I went.

For these reasons, I’m glad that my own daughter won’t remember my residency days, even though I know it’s been hard for her. On the first day I went back to work from my maternity leave, I said to my husband, "She has no idea that her whole little world is going to be ripped apart..." Every day when I leave in the morning, she reaches out for me and cries. And I think to myself, "What kind of mother am I to leave her like this?" But when I go to work, I’m earning the money that pays the rent and building a career that hopefully someday she’ll be proud of.

I'm not going to lie and say that 6-year-old me wouldn't have been preferred that my mother stayed home all day and spent every minute of her time with me. And I won't tell you that my mother doesn't sometimes say she regrets going back to school and missing those early years with me. But we are very close now and I think having so much time apart made us closer. The little time we spent together was that much more special.

And even though she wasn't there with a homemade bologna sandwich every day when I got home from school, on the evenings that she was home, I got to crawl into bed with her and sleep there all night long.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Mommy Daddy Mommy Daddy

Although their first early utterances often sound more like "Da Da Da Da" rather than "Mommy, Can I Have More Breastmilk And By The Way, Thank You For Everything," when you share your children with a father who is as dedicated as my husband, you don't mind that the kids initially and still sometimes call you Daddy, or the more formal "Mommy Daddy Mommy Daddy" even when they are Just Four and Nearly Two. After all, upon looking through our wedding album on recent nights, Just Four decided that she will either marry her brother or her father. Perhaps reasonable, given her vantage point, but not legal. Here are just a few loving witticisms, courtesy of my kids, in tribute to the dads out there:

"I'm going to love you every day, and I'm not even going to skip a day"

"I had a dream that I loved you"

"I love you.... table"

"Happy Mother's Day Daddy"


As a post-script, allow me (a mother in medicine) a brief shout out to my own father (neither a mother nor in medicine, except he was the latter, I guess, as a patient succumbing to cancer over 15 years ago). When I casually mentioned to my daughter that the Berenstain bears book we were reading was one that "my parents" read to me when I was little, she asked, "Who was the Daddy?" For the first time a clear reference to my father, her should-have-been grandfather. And I told her, "He was a wonderful man who read me books and taught me to swim." I miss father's day.