a doctor and patient fist-bumping building a relationship with parkinson's doctor

Building Medical Relationships

Last updated: January 2023

When I was a kid, the first dentist that I went to had a very harsh Germanic sounding name. Being a kid who quickly came to despise his rough tooth scraping and cavity drilling, as if they were a punishment from Orwell’s 1984, I came to dread these visits. Only humor could relieve this tension.

"So we will extract the tooth, ja?" I would jokingly tell my parents after the visit. They would look at me like I wasn’t right. Even then, they knew.

Understanding personal preferences

Like the harsh omnipresent R and W sounds of Beowulf that I would translate 2 decades later, listening to this doctor’s voice cemented my dental prejudices. I guess you could call this my Intro to Irrational Distrust 101 class.

To my childhood self, the dentist’s accent was menacing. In contrast, the flowery language from the Canterbury Tales, where the E added to every word, was pastoral. Why couldn’t the dentist speak like Chaucer?

Of course, this negative dental opinion could be the fear of being told I was a lousy tooth brusher, but just flow with me on this thought for a minute!

Teaching the teachers

When we have issues with a doctor, it is as if their every word sounds like a howl from the Dark Ages. We may hear "overweight" as "fat" or "need to exercise" as "lazy." Thinking back to my days learning to be prepared for the classroom, I wish I would have learned more about/paid more attention when we were taught that students can take criticism as being told they’re "dumb."

Nevertheless, every time we meet a new person in a profession we had past interactions with, we bring our subjective judgments to their table. For instance, if the last doctor was lackadaisical or on a power trip, we wait for the other shoe to drop this time, too. It’s not fair on the new doc, but it is what it is.

If a patient previously had major issues, such as misdiagnosis or medical, new medical professionals need to work around fears such as pain, anguish, and cost. Thus, it’s unfortunately in a doctor’s best interest to be "in the zone" 24/7 to overcome other people’s issues.

Stoic philosophy

However, as a patient, it’s our job to equal out the other side of the equation, too. Here, we need to be open and willing to share our needs and concerns respectfully. Really.

But what would happen if I have to get a new doc? So a Parkie walks into a neurologist’s office and comes upon a nervous medical student in training. As a former teacher and Parkinson’s advocate, I never hesitate to give opportunity to anyone seriously learning anything.

With my doc (EPV), I knew right away I would like him. He was very matter of fact, and he came across as a guy’s guy. He could have been a cool uncle or a wise grandfather. His expression felt confident, and I immediately trusted his knowledge.

Medical success strategies

To me, it’s important to work with people we respect and enjoy, especially when it comes to our health. However, due to his "newness," it felt awkward answering the initial hesitant questions from "Other Guy."

Having someone who knows me for me is what it’s all about when I make my Parkinson's plan. It’s hard to build gel with the nervous temp guy who is not going to be here next time, but who is going to create the report and rapport for the next visit.

How to effectively generate medical histories

I understand I’m a different kind of patient. I’m read when it comes to my diagnosis. I let people respectfully ask most anything about this condition. Not all patients feel comfortable with that. Understandable. However, I can work to help ease a new professional’s transition. Really.

Eventually, EPV, came in, and he watched the new guy mechanically finish the physical exam. When it was over, I encouraged the student in the hope that he would get comfortable when talking to people. I know it’s not easy, and I’m not perfect, but icebreakers and the human interaction are everything.

Here, I wished him well in all that he does. I’m sure he has a bright future ahead of him. In the same way, I’d like to think I can keep working on my patient skills, too.

Master class

Recently, my sleep doctor got a new job, so I found myself going into a new guy. When the secretary scheduled me to see him, I told them to give me anyone they felt was good. In the end, I got great.

Walking into the room, we hit it off right away, and he hit me with knowledge and personal attention, while I responded in novel-length to his questions with my history. When it was all over, I asked him how long he had been "in the game" since he was so "automatic." He laughed at my compliment, but told me 15 years or so before thanking me.

I have to say that I’m going to be looking forward to our future sessions. I’m sure he has a lot to teach me.

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