As chronic patients, we are acutely aware of the strain that can creep into patient-physician relationships. You can try everything in an appointment — being quiet and polite, assertive and confident, well-informed and prepared… and still end up feeling that something went wrong. Every negative experience with doctors who don’t listen or believe our stories, or simply have poor bedside manners, added to a heightened state of emotional vulnerability and physical fragility, can condition us to feel fear and pain by simply entering a doctor’s office. For some of us, this becomes medical PTSD or, as one specialist named it, “doctor-induced PTSD.”
It’s difficult to then meet new doctors without projecting these fears. Yet, how can we expect doctors to believe in us when we are too guarded to trust them? In the end, the frustration, fear, compassion fatigue, and lack of perceived respect causes both parties to stop seeing one another as real people — flawed, but also intuitive and caring.
After observing this divide in many patient-physician relationships, we’ve decided to do some digging.
We sat down with Dr. Scheinberg, a family physician, to understand what might be causing this breakdown, and what can be done to bridge that gap. The conversation that followed was beautiful and reminded me of the importance of seeing humanity in our health partners.