Medical Practice

The Descent in Status of the Doctor

Author- Dr Deepthi N.S.

God before treatment

I’m sure most doctors would agree with me when I say “We don’t want to be put on a pedestal, just let us do our job in peace”. It happens invariably the higher a doctor climbs up in rank anyway. The pedestal is full of gifts and praises, a bright place indeed rewarded following several years of sacrifice. Nobody can touch you up there, and your orders rain down relentlessly upon your subordinates no matter the day, time, age or circumstance. You can work from 9 to 5 and leave for your evening tennis lessons in that shiny new Mercedes you just bought, your juniors are of course still working without compensation even after you’ve left. You own a private hospital? Well then you can drop in at three pm and work till midnight, your juniors of course would’ve come in the morning to take care of the patients and would still be with you till midnight because leaving while your boss is still at work is blasphemy right?

So who puts these professors on this pedestal, this invisible chunk of heaven right here on earth? Sure as hell not his subordinates! It is indeed his patients and quite reasonably so, after all he is a senior. Oh my son needs surgery? Alright what was it again regarding those blood tests before surgery? I have too many doubts now, never mind I’ll just ask his junior doctor. I’ll go under general anaesthesia, surely he’s the one operating on me. Right? The pedestal is important and let us keep him there.

Human during treatment

The stories of violence against doctors is not new. The aftermath is what gets the media attention, but what really leads to this attack? Were there few minutes of disagreeing tones exchanged between the assailant and the doctor or were there days of displeasure that finally culminated into the brutality that we got to witness? Well it really depends on the gravity of the situation and where the patient was admitted to answer that. Research has shown that most attacks happen within the ICU waiting areas and the Emergency Departments. So if it’s in an ED, it only takes a few minutes of fast realization amidst the relatives of the patient that this doctor cannot diagnose my son as quickly as we’d imagined. He seems to have worked long hours and is now barely able to keep up with my questions. This is where the first step of descent happens, the patients realizing that he’s only human. The signs are obvious, fidgeting, pacing back and forth, avoiding eye contact when being briefed, frantic phone calls, evasive body language and murmurs of dissatisfaction to name a few. The shock is only worse because the descent has happened, had there been no pedestal the acceptance would’ve been smoother, violence free.

Devil after treatment

 Then the attack happens. The doctor becomes the scapegoat for everything and anything that has gone wrong. The long waiting hours, the rude surprise of the exorbitant hospital bill, the cracked walls in the ceiling you name it, the doctor is the face of the hospital and they’ll be the first to receive the blow. Now add to this concoction, a series of unfortunate events leading to a delay in diagnosis or mismanagement at any stage during treatment and you will be dragged straight to hell- the final stage. There’s no descent here, it happens in the blink of an eye and now you have a black- eyed doctor running for his life.

This was a very easy depiction of the stages, the reality is gruesome. The solution is fairly simple, take off the pedestal and you have a bunch of ‘human doctors’ who are working and trying their best to give you the best treatment there is. The pedestal has blinding effects on the doctors too, who think they’re above everyone else. So next time a senior surgeon snaps at you saying “I’m the best in this technique and you will never get these results anywhere else” think of this pedestal and think hard. Do not be surprised if tomorrow the doctor doing the ward rounds following this surgery is his junior. Whether the surgery was a success or not, this pedestal serves no good for anyone. Remember “ To err is human, to forgive divine”.

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