I know that I’m completely biased when I say this but I feel that doctors in general are incredibly empathetic people. Completing medical school and residency is such an intensely grueling process that I truly don’t believe anyone would willingly choose to put themselves through this if they didn’t possess a strong desire to help other people.
Having said that, how does your doctor think?
Your doctor has learned how the body works and has done a broad stroke on the determinants of health (environment or where you live, socioeconomic status or how much money you make) and how this may have an influence on your health and diet. The determinants of health are broad and nonspecific, most commonly being applied to a population and not specific people. Medical education quickly turns towards pathology or the medical science concerned with examining organs tissues and body fluids in order to make a diagnosis of disease. After all, there are an immense number of diseases and conditions about which each doctor has to learn.
There you have it, when you go to your doctor and give them a list of your specific symptoms and complaints; they are putting lists together in order to find the right disease. Your doctor has a list of criteria that, when put together, come up to the right diagnosis. Doctors are trained and focused on matching the symptoms with the associated disease. Finding the right disease will allow the doctor to administer the right treatment.
Several questions immediately come to my mind with this system. First and foremost, as a patient, are you looking for health or disease? It basically comes down to whether want to be healthy or you want to be sick. The answer may seem obvious, but certain patients choose being sick as having a label will fulfill an unmet need. I would honestly say though that most people want to be healthy.
I recently came across a very interesting article published in Forbes magazine in 2012. The article highlighted the statistic that job dissatisfaction among US doctors had been rising. In an online questionnaire of 24,000 doctors representing 25 specialties, only 54% of the participants said that they would choose medicine again as a career. (This leaves 46% of these doctors feeling unfulfilled or unhappy with their career choice!!) Some of reasons stated to explain this phenomenon included the amount of paperwork necessary to complete in order to see patients on a daily basis and decreasing compensation for their work. I wonder if this is really the issue. I’ve often wondered if doctors are unhappy simply because their work fails to fulfill their needs. Remember when I said the doctors are incredibly empathetic people. I believe it would feel extremely disheartening for a very empathetic person to have a job is unable to make them feel as if they were contributing to or actually helping people. I don’t believe there is a feeling of helping people if you spent a great deal of your day giving prescriptions that seem to make little to no long term impact on patient well-being or actually cure the chronic illness. What if their pati