Monday, September 15, 2014

Turning Turtle -- Is this how doctors are socialized?

Here's another short excerpt from a draft of a book--Turning Turtle--being written by my friend and colleague.  As I described below, Samuel Jay Keyser--Professor of Linguistics (Emeritus) at MIT--suffered from a debilitating fall that left him severely injured and experiencing the health care system in a way he could have never imagined.  This moment takes place after his second surgery for spinal cord injuries. 

One day a solo doctor came into the room, introduced himself, and without much preamble told me that while the operation was a success, I probably would never walk again. 

“Fuck you,” I said to myself.

To him, I said, “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“I know it isn’t what you want to hear,” he said in a consoling way. “But it’s best to be realistic in situations like yours.” 

I wonder why he felt the need to be “realistic.” Perhaps it was his way of defending himself from becoming too close to a patient.

I learned later that the nurse on duty had overheard the conversation and had given him hell when he left the room. Much later in my hospital stay, he exchanged his severe demeanor for one with an engaging smile. I wonder if the nurse’s dressing down had changed him. I wonder if that’s how doctors are socialized on the job.


Unknown said...

Sadly enough, rarely are nurses comfortable enough to do that out of fear of the response. Most nurses have been reprimanded by physicians, not the other way around. Kudos to this nurse for having the guts to do so.

When we hear that, many RN's get frustrated and sad. After observing such an interaction, most insure they give the patient their utmost care and respect and try to emotionally support them after getting such life shattering news. However, this can't even begin to make up the ground that was lost by those few sentences spoken by that physician.

nonlocal MD said...

I can socialize my puppy better than that.

Anonymous said...

Can you imagine hearing that kind of news from someone you don’t know, whose never bothered to establish a relationship with you?

Especially with all the new research happening with implants that can simulate the spinal cord ?!

And nursing (low end of the hierarchy) should not be put in a position of having to give a physician “hell” for their social and/or communication blunders; but they are every day.

And then you have organizations where the beat-down of nurses (usually by physicians with administrators who turn a blind eye) has been so severe – they no longer bother to speak-up because they are so defeated and burned out.

Nancy Thomas said...

I've watched that happen in a hospital here with a new Boston affiliation - and the rotating crew comes in all doom and gloom - I actually heard the phrase "prepare for the worst, hope for the best" - then they are heroes. I ran interference between these highly educated, but much in need of humanizing - and socializing - staff, on behalf of my daughter, who I am happy to say, recovered perfectly - and yes, expectations were exceeded. The charge nurse was queen on the floor - the hospitalist thought he was king, until he came up against her. And a doting mom, of course.