As a physician assistant, there will be many times when you get frustrated with patients. You will have patients come in to see you because they have a cough, or a sore throat…..for ONE day. It will irk you at times. It will make you wonder why you spent so many hours studying just to deal with things like this. I know it bothered me, until I started to realize something. Patients are not there just for a cough or sore throat.
Patients are people. People have busy lives, people have problems, and people need other people. We are social creatures by nature. We are not made to be deprived from other human interaction. Sometimes, the problems we face in life, we can’t necessarily tell our family, or friends. But, we feel like we need to tell someone. Thats exactly what is going on here.
Whenever I would see the chief complaint of cough for one day, I would get irritated. That irritation would then change my mood and ultimately my perception of the patient. I would go into the room with judgment before I had ever laid eyes on the patient. This is BAD. Why? Well, it would skew my way of thinking and would skew my attitude. Instead, look to see what is really going on. Look to see the bigger picture. Try and get a sense as to why the person is really there.
Many times it will be stress, anxiety, depression, or even the mere fact that they will have 15 minutes of someones undivided attention. Diagnose and treat the cough in 5 minutes, and spend the last ten minutes speaking and understanding your patient. Patients go in to see you because they know you are unbiased towards their actions. They feel they can trust you, so don’t break that trust. We have no idea what is truly going on with their lives. We have no right to make judgments about anyone, because although this cough may not be anything, you will form a certain attitude towards this patient; the next time you see them it will trigger that emotion, and who knows, the next time they may really be sick!
So, I challenge you to stay unbiased. I challenge you not to say, “oh this patient again”. I challenge you to not make judgements based on a patients previous actions, and take each encounter seriously. Lastly, I challenge you to listen and understand your patients, and to stop thinking of them as a constellation of symptoms. You never know when you will have that suicidal patient that is just looking for someone to validate their self worth. As a physician assistant, it is not only your job to treat disease, but it is also your job to care. Sometimes, the best medicine is to simply listen.