Published July 22, 2008
Doctors say the darndest things — especially when faced with malpractice woes, long hours, never-ending paperwork and whining patients.
In its July issue, Reader's Digest interviewed two dozen doctors for its cover article, “41 Things Doctors Never Tell You.”
"We've heard from hundreds of our readers reacting to this story, some of whom are outraged that doctors could seem so insensitive and uncaring, and others who say they're glad to have some insight into their frustrations," said Julie Bain, health director at Reader's Digest.
While some of the comments are funny — others are just plain shocking.
Here's a sampling:
What Doctors Really Think About You
“I am utterly tired of being your mother. Every time I see you, I have to say the obligatory, “You need to lose some weight.” But you swear you “don’t eat anything.”
— Cardiologist, Brooklyn, N.Y.
“I wish patients would take more responsibility for their own health and stop relying on me to bail them out of their own problems.”
— ER physician, Colorado Springs, Colo.
“When a doctor tells you to lose 15 to 20 pounds, what they really mean is you need to lose 50.”
— Tamara Merritt, Family physician, Brewster, Wash.
Doctors Know More Than the Web
You’re sick, but you don’t want to call the doctor. So instead of making an appointment, you log on to the Web to self-diagnose.
“I have patients with whom I spend enormous amounts of time, explaining things and coming up with treatment strategy. Then I get e-mails a few days later, saying they were looking at this Web site that says something completely different and wacky, and they want to do it. To which I say (but I don’t), “So why don’t you get the Web site to take over your care?”
— James Dillard, MD
“We’ve heard from a lot of doctors about that one,” said Bain. “Obviously you want a well-educated patient, but what they say is frustrating is when they sit down with a patient, go through a whole treatment plan and then get a call saying I heard online that they have this shark fin oil. I want you to put me on shark fin oil."
Fears of Being Sued
“Not a day goes by when I don’t think about the potential for being sued. It makes me give patients a lot of unnecessary tests that are potentially harmful, just so I don’t miss an injury or problem that comes back to haunt me in the form of a lawsuit”
— ER Physician, Colorado Springs, Colo.
The ER doc is not alone. An American Medical Association survey found that 62 percent of medical residents said medical liability issues were their top concern and would influence what specialty they chose and where they practiced medicine.
“One of them said we are not allowed to be human," Bain said. "Doctors are human.”
Looks Do Matter
“In most branches of medicine we deal more commonly with old people. So we become much more enthusiastic when a young person comes along. Doctors have a limited amount of time, so the younger and more attractive you are, the more likely you are to get more of our time.”
— Family physician, Washington, D.C.
“When they have an attractive young patient, they’re going to say it’s refreshing to me and I’m going spend more time with a patient like that,” Bain said.
Waiting… Waiting and More Waiting
We’ve all been there. You have an appointment at noon and your doctor doesn’t get around to seeing you until 1:45. What’s the deal with all this waiting?
“Doctors are only interested in whether they are inconvenienced — most don’t care if you have to wait for them.”
— Family physician, Washington, D.C.
“A lot of times doctors do have to overbook,” Bain said. “They know that [they] have to see a certain number of patients a day to make ends meet and cover their overhead, or a doctor could be having an emergency.”
When to Schedule Surgery
As they say in the restaurant business: “Don’t order fish on a Monday,” because it’s most likely left over from the weekend.
The same type of thinking applies to surgery.
“Avoid Friday afternoon surgery. The day after surgery is when most problems happen. If the next day is Saturday, you’re flying by yourself without a safety net.”
— Heart Surgeon, New York City
“Hospital units tend to be understaffed on Saturday, and their ERs are also overwhelmed because doctors’ offices are closed. So if you can get in on another day, you’re going to have better care,” Bain said.
Overall, the magazine concluded that it's not easy being a doctor today.
"On the other hand, it ain't easy being a patient, either," Bain said. "You may have to sit in the waiting room for a long time with only a hunting and fishing magazine to read!"