Thoughts on Doctor Bashing

It took me a lot of guts and thought to write this entry, but you see lately I have been reading a lot, with so much disappointment, of doctor bashing on social media that it seems like it’s becoming a national trend. So just a disclaimer I’m a doctor myself and I’d like to take this chance to write about it. I read a post yesterday with a face of a doctor being ridiculed due to misbehavior although not medically-related, I wouldn’t really know the root cause of it but I’d like to believe that there could have been some sort of miscommunication between the complainant and the doctor. The post had the doctor’s whole name stated on it and clinic address which made me cringe. A similar video went viral of an unpleasant encounter between a doctor and a patient at a local emergency room. As they say there’s always two sides in a story and I’d like to believe that both parties felt strongly about their respective reasons behind their actions. But should it really come to this point of shaming?

In any conflict or situation, communication matters. Here’s a quote from Tony Robbins which pretty much explains what I mean –

To effectively communicate we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.

I totally understand where irate and disappointed patients are coming from and I must say colleagues too but we all have got to reach a point where we have to step back when filled with emotions specially unpleasant ones involving anger and as much as possible to our very best, think before we speak or ink in today’s times. Learn to speak up from both sides but not to the point of shaming. Social media has become too social that whatever we post gears towards the tendency for the people involved to get “marked” for life whether good or bad – that’s coming from my own personal opinion. Neither should we as doctors become too self-entitled as well, we also have a fair share in conflicts at times involving such issues – it takes two to tango but it need not be so big that reputations be damaged and that bias or some sort of discrimination occurs not only in the healthcare industry but it cuts across the rest.

Doctors seem to be popular targets these past days for various reasons, and really the feeling of disappointment in me will never be gone. Let’s face it doctors have earned their own place in society but this needs to be balanced with the humility of non-self-entitlement also and because doctors are at times seen as “privileged” some people think that they are a fair target for unfair criticism. On the other hand, here’s where feedback is also valuable and here’s where proper communication must happen. I must admit that the healthcare system plays a part but in lieu of the upcoming changes it will take, I think it’s high time that we as doctors begin to be open to feedback and vice versa. We are, after all, humans too and this is where we need your help, let us know how you feel but not to the point of shaming. It’s our vocation to help others and we’re sticking to that but in return we only ask that respect be there and that communication lines be open. Listen to understand instead of to react.

I hope you don’t get the context of what I’m saying as wrong, there are areas that are really vulnerable to criticism admittedly in the medical profession and individual doctors but the same criticism can actually be good and healthy if we only start building a culture with this in mind and not to put anybody down and as mentioned earlier have the other party marked or even scarred for life. When criticism goes beyond being constructive and based on facts, when it has become an end to itself carrying with it the goal of pulling someone down, that in itself is considered bashing and that ain’t good anymore.

I consider medical school days as a journey that was deeply humbling for me and which helped hone my values as a doctor now, it took several years to get over the sense of becoming too overwhelmed by your own ignorance but that’s what learning is all about. Respect for patients as individuals is and will always be the rule but respect for us as doctors and individuals should be there too. Respect and responsibility.

We are all diverse and therefore this should only equate towards unity in diversity as its goal, let’s not pull each other down in the process. Of course, physicians, like any other group, differ from each other. There are doctors who I must admit are quite difficult to deal with, those who, despite of not knowing, exhibit infallibility but there are also doctors who are insightful, sensitive, caring, and diligent. I have personally witnessed this, we’re all humans with various individual traits after all, we carry our own burdens as well but that’s beside the point, personality is all about perspective too so it may pay to look beyond what you see.

People will tend to remember those little bits of information that support their biases, while forgetting those that contradict it. In the same light we all need each other to continuously improve each others lives in this world where there seems to be a little bit more of hate in it, so let’s all do our own share of good. I have always been a strong believer of collaboration that leads to the right communication we all need, not only in the physician-patient relationship but in all others as well.

Bottomline is there’s nothing that a good conversation cannot solve, there’s always a way. Take the conversation offline and compromise towards a win-win situation for both. Feedback is good and we acknowledge that, patients teach us and we are forever grateful, let’s all bear that in mind for I am a doctor and a patient too.

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