Just How Important is it to Have a Connection with Your Doctor?
Last updated: January 2019
I recently saw someone ask how important it is to have a connection with their surgeon. It got me to thinking about it. My thoughts were a little different than those of most respondents. I'm interested to hear what you guys think.
It depends on the patient
My response was, basically, "It depends." I think it depends on your personality and your needs as a patient and I also think it matters how long the relationship is likely to be.
Here's what I mean.
First of all, some patients don't really care if they feel a connection with their doctor. They want the best treatment they can get. It is not a problem for those patients if the doctor with the best reputation happens to be a cold fish. Let's face it, how long are you usually in your oncologist's office anyway?
Others care. If the doctor is not friendly and "involved," then maybe he or she is not seeing them as a multi-faceted person, but only as their disease.
Bedside manner vs results
But, what if that doctor with a great bedside manner doesn't have the same reputation for treating lung cancer? What if more of his or her patients pass away quicker than the patients of the doctor in the next office who knows his stuff but is not warm and fuzzy?
Do you choose bedside manner over results?
My first oncologist was very friendly. I really liked him. But, thinking back, I didn't have much confidence in him. He didn't inspire hope.
I switched doctors when I got into a clinical trial. I went to an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. It is a huge facility. My first oncologist told me to expect to be treated like a number there.
But that didn't happen. Everyone from the person who checks me in, to the one who takes me to get my blood drawn, to the person who takes my vitals, smiles and is happy to see me. You know, that just starts your visit out the right way.
Reliability has value
I'm fortunate because every single doctor I have is a caring, empathetic person who I believe sees me as a whole person. Except for one. I have broken my right arm twice in recent years. My orthopedic surgeon is one of the best in his field, but he has no personality. I have tried and tried to break through his shell and get him to show some emotion, to no avail.
But, when I broke my arm the second time, I didn't hesitate to call his office for an appointment. He doesn't have much personality and maybe he only sees me as a broken bone that needs to be fixed. But, he fixes it so that I never have a moment's worth of trouble out of it.
I don't really care if he doesn't want to chat with me about my dogs or what I've been doing lately. He fixes my problem. That's enough.
When it comes to my oncologist...
I'm not sure if it would be enough though if we are talking about my oncologist. That's an ongoing relationship. I think it is important to know that he sees me as more than just my cancer. But, if it came down to choosing between a doctor who has great bedside manner but is losing a lot of patients and one with whom I feel no affinity but whose patients were thriving, I think I would choose skill over bedside manner.
What do you think? Just how important is that bedside manner in your doctor(s)? We want to hear from you. Tell us about your relationship with your doctors by taking our Healthcare Provider Satisfaction survey. Click here to begin!
Happy Lung Cancer Awareness Month! What does self-advocacy mean to you?