I wonder what goes through a physician’s mind when they move from one patient to another?
How do they wipe their concern and compassion for the previous patient from their consciousness before listening to the next patient’s complaints?
My own physician of over 30 years is kind and compassionate as well as being astute and practical. In the past few months, I have developed a yet-undiagnosed problem so have had ample time to observe his motion from one exam room to another.
“What can I do for you today?” Is a typical greeting. He uses a laptop to record my pertinent symptoms and complaints. He always has to search for previous lab results or consults — I am grateful for computerization because my paper file is about 7 cm thick! After my visit is complete, he walks to the next exam room — a new patient with a unique history, signs, symptoms, diagnostic findings, etc.
While in the waiting room I have ample time to glance into the office area and its hallway leading to the exam rooms. I see Dr. L. walk from exam room to exam room. Always, he seems deep in thought, almost trance-like, sometimes gazing at an open folder (old-fashioned paper, probably containing the patient’s latest “entering complaint”).
His colleage, a younger man, appears in the hall also as he moves from patient to patient. His demeanor is more extroverted — his gestures are wide and if he is carrying a folder he is swinging it. He makes more visits to the front desk and the receptionist than does Dr L. What happens in his mind? Is there simply more room in his young brain? Is there no need to purge previous details as he goes on to the next patient? After all, they are stored in the computer’s hard drive.
And does one’s demeanor really give a clue to what is going on in one’s mind? Adopting the appearance of Rodin’s “The Thinker” may not produce more profundity of thought. I do still wonder, though, how a busy physician who sees a patient every 10 to 15 minutes, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. can accommodate each patient’s needs without completely “wiping the slate clean” after each patient. Yet there remain many physicians who seem to genuinely relate to a patient.
I don’t know where I am going with my peregrinations so I will close for now. As a veterinarian, I do not get to engage in a dialogue with my patients; instead, I must carefully dissect what information is presented to me by the human who is attached to the animal. But that’s another blog…