Kudos to my newest doctor, a dermatologist whom I met yesterday for evaluation of a small, benign-appearing mole I recently noted on my right leg. What she did right:
1. She saw me promptly, at the time of my scheduled appointment.
(Thank you, you seem to value my time, as I do yours.)
2. In her initial clipboard-bound paperwork, along with the usual forms about my history (always with insufficient space for my case and, unfortunately, still non-electronic) she asked not only for emergency contact information, a standard, but for the name and relationship of someone besides me – such as a family member or close friend – with whom she might discuss my condition, if I permitted.
(Thank you for asking this and really, I’d prefer that you not speak with my parents about my results. I’ll be turning 50 next month.)
3. In the same short set of greeting paperwork, she didn’t just ask for my phone numbers and other contact information. She took this to another level and asked if it’s OK to leave a message on my home’s answering machine.
(Thank you again, for asking. I have teenage sons and don’t particularly want them hearing about my appointments or biopsy results before I get the message.)
4. Her assistant walked me into a room and told me to stay dressed. “The doctor likes to talk to people with their clothes on, before they put on the gown,” she explained.
(This was really terrific, and I hadn’t even yet met the doctor!)
I wasn’t disappointed: when Dr. G. entered the room, she was professional, considerate and thorough. I got the feeling she works conscientiously and carefully. And that she cares.
I can’t help but reflect on what a difference these sorts of details can make in a patient’s experience. How many times had I been in an orthopedist’s office for the first time, or at a different dermatologist’s, pleading with a nurse or technician that I might keep my clothes on until I’ve met the doctor and we’ve spoken.
It’s inefficient, I suppose, for doctors to meet patients in a small exam room, to exit and then re-enter after they’ve changed into a gown. But it’s humiliating, I feel, for an adult woman or for any person to meet the physician, especially for the first time, when they’re not wearing clothes.
A dermatologist, or any doctor for that matter, can’t necessarily take away the condition you have, which may or may not be serious. They may not have an easy remedy. But if they treat you with courtesy and respect, that makes it easier to cope with any situation.
Fortunately the lesions Dr. G. removed are likely nothing more than benign moles with Greek-derived names. One was a bit vascular. The lesion bled once she snipped it off, and so I can’t swim for a few days until the wound heals. But otherwise I’m doing fine.