I seldom write about things related to my work and for good reason. But in the last few weeks, I’ve had a few encounters that have been truly appalling and left me questioning why some people choose to become doctors if they don’t give a damn about their patients.
In the first instance, I saw a doctor at my company’s panel clinic near my office for what I suspected to be a urinary tract infection. It doesn’t take a genius (or a doctor for that matter) to figure that frequent urination, hematuria and lower abdominal pain most likely equate to a UTI. However, not only did the doctor not ask me to provide a urine sample, she didn’t even touch me beyond jamming a thermometer into my ear to check if I had a fever. A good doctor would not only ask for a urine sample, they would get the patient to lie down so they can palpate the abdomen. If I hadn’t started the consultation by saying “I think I have a urinary tract infection”, I wonder what she would have diagnosed me with. Menstruation? At any rate, she packed me off with a supply of antibiotics, and that was that.
In today’s instance, I saw a doctor for a bug that I just can’t seem to shake off. Same medical group, different panel clinic. This doctor, who looked to be in his teens, is quite possibly the first-ever doctor able to listen to a patient’s lungs without his stethoscope making contact. I’m pretty sure that that’s not how they teach auscultation in medical school. This scamp of a doctor then shone his torch at the back of my throat for all of 2 seconds, took my temperature and scribbled down a whole host of medications without bothering to tell me what he was prescribing. I was in and out of his office in fewer than 5 minutes. I suppose I should be grateful that he bothered to ask if I had any drug allergies.
If this is how some doctors practise medicine then I, too, can be a doctor without training.
Maybe I have been spoiled by excellent GPs who take the time to listen to their patients, do a thorough examination (sometimes too thorough, but that’s another story), deliberate what medications to prescribe and advise on things like side-effects and drug interactions. We have an excellent family doctor nearby who never fails to remind me that antibiotics will affect my birth control, and to reiterate the proper dosing schedule when alternating paracetamol and ibuprofen. I have also been privileged to work with many specialists for whom the patient always comes first.
When I think about the care and attention that these doctors give their patients, and the complete lack of care that I experienced at the panel clinics, I can only hope that the doctors at the latter are black sheep and not representative of how young doctors are these days.
Perhaps, somewhat like A*Star scholar Eng Kai Er, these doctors went through their many years of training only to realise that medicine isn’t for them. Or perhaps they didn’t feel like they owned the practice because they were locums. Whatever the case, patients expect and are entitled to a certain standard of care when they see a doctor, which includes a thorough and considered diagnosis, carefully selected medications, patient education and a modicum of concern. There is just no excuse for anything less.