Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Visit to the Doctor

The case manager and I have brought our client to see his new doctor, who enters the room smiling, his gray lab coat worn over a white shirt and tie decorated with multicolored stethoscopes and faux ECG readouts. He shakes each of our hands, in turn.

"So, you're Mr. __________. Very nice to meet you. I believe your son is my patient, as well."

My client is solicitous, friendly and smiling as the doctor greets him. "That's right. Nice to meet you."

"You seem very healthy for a man of your age," the doctor says. "We should all be so lucky."

As we talk, review our client's history and relate our concerns and needs, the soft-spoken doctor listens----really listens----and reflects back to us what he hears. Performing a cursory yet thorough exam, he listens to our client's heart and lungs, prods his belly, inspects his limbs, checks his eyes, and otherwise gives him the once over with gentle and learned dexterity.

"I think you're all doing an excellent job caring for Mr. _________. He's a lucky man to have such a team looking after him 24 hours a day." He leans over and speaks very loudly into our client's ear. "You're a lucky man!"

Our client smiles broadly.

After the exam, the doctor recommends a tetanus booster and a pneumonia vaccine, and we're stunned when he comes back into the exam room to prepare and administer the vaccines himself.

"I'm sorry," I say, "but I've never seen a doctor give an immunization before. Do you always do this?"

He looks up at me as he flicks one of the syringes with his finger to remove any errant air bubbles. "Oh, when the nurses are busy I like to help out. It's no big deal, really." He leans down and administers the two injections deftly, one in either deltoid. Mr. _______ never flinches.

"Well, it's a big deal to us. Most doctors would never dream of doing such a thing," my colleague says to him as he places the used syringes in a sharps container. "You've been very kind and attentive."

"It's my pleasure, truly." The doctor shakes each of our hands once again, hands us prescriptions, referrals and a signed application for a handicap placard, and slips quietly out the door.

"That is one fine doctor," my colleague says to me, shaking her head. "What a positive experience."

We wheel our patient to the elevator, all of us quiet, knowing that we have just had what might be seen by some as a very unusual experience. The doctor was efficient, kind, thoughtful, thorough, paid great attention to detail, and listened to everything we had to say. As nurses, being really listened to by a doctor is simply a coup d'etat, and we left that office beaming with our collective good fortune.

A fine doctor, indeed.
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