Managing the Doctor-Patient Relationship and Creating a Team, Part 4

A good doctor treats the whole patient. I am not talking about the philosophy held by many in holistic medicine. I am also not asking every physician to understand every specialty of medicine. What I really mean is that a good doctor remains connected to the whole patient. I just found a meme that says, “Friends don’t let friends fight lupus alone.”

A lupus patient needs to be surrounded by people who both understand the symptoms and treatment for the condition, but those people should understand the emotional and financial burden placed on the patient’s life. This includes doctors.

Lessons learned on lupus

When I was in high school and college, I was part of a program being conducted at Emory University School of Medicine. The purpose of the program was to help medical students understand a chronic illness from the patient perspective. Medical students were required to spend an evening with someone living with a chronic illness. The students were charged with understanding a patient’s routines, their mobility around the house, their stresses, relationships any characteristic of a patient not seen in the examination room. This program was helpful to the medical student because it gave the student a glimpse into the whole patient. I am not sure if the program still exists, but I believe it benefits both the patient and the doctor.

It helps for someone living with lupus to build a rapport with the doctor and for the doctor to build a rapport with the patient. When interviewing a doctor, I like to take my mother because of her skills as a therapist and social worker have trained her to ask the right questions. Since she does not attend every appointment, I have picked up some pointers:

Get personal and be social

In any social setting, people tend to gravitate towards people that exhibit similar characteristics. I went to the same university as two of my doctors. That commonality allowed us to talk about our experiences. If you like to garden or cook, combined the subjects and talk about recipes or gardening tips. If you have children, share pictures or achievements. If you enjoy music or exercise, discuss those subjects. We are all connected by, if nothing else, a body of water and the earth beneath our feet.

Come prepared to appointments

That brings me to my next topic. I come prepared for each appointment. I will discuss coming prepared to discuss your symptoms and concerns in another article. This time, I will discuss characteristics. When I visit my current rheumatologist, I know that I am going to have a fun discussion. He is well-rounded and a wonderful grasp of the world around him. He also likes music, so I come with music in my back pocket. My nephrologist takes a special interest in my career and my home life. He wants to make sure that I am okay, mentally and physically. He takes my emotions into consideration. I can count on his support on a good day and a bad day. I know he truly cares for me. My relationship with both doctors places me at ease n+o matter how I am feeling during the appointment. I have no problem telling them what is going on in my life, discussing my day, enjoying the good times, and going to them when things are bad.

Building trust with doctors is important

All of these things may seem a little tedious or time-consuming, but they build a level of trust between doctor and patient that is so important to both parties involved. My current nephrologist has been a part of my healthcare team for 17 years. We are honest with each other. I place my trust in him and he places his trust in me so that the two of us are able to jointly discuss treatment options based on the other aspects of my life like a career. Fifteen years later, I had to have the same discussion about my kidneys with my nephrologist and my rheumatologists. The amount of blood in my urine reached dangerous levels. I feared that another portion of my kidneys had succumbed to my immune system. As a team of 3, we weighed the options for treatments, and now my nephritis is in remission and the other aspects of my lupus are nearing remission.

When looking at the doctor-patient relationship, personality, honesty, and friendship are so important. After all, each doctor is a part of a team. It is best to make sure that you and your doctors share an equal interest in taking care of you.

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