What does an empathic doctor look like to me? An empathic is one that I feel comfortable with. He/she listens to me and is willing to at least care that sometimes my life is hard. I have no need for a person in the medical field that has the attitude that I just need to buck up. I spend all day bucking up. I hide my disability from many of my friends, all of my co-workers. At the doctor’s office I feel like I just need to be real and let it rip. I need help, understanding, and hopefully solid answers to my many questions that I do not have the nerve to ask anyone else. With an empathetic doctor, I feel like I am being listened to. I want to feel like she (in my case) is really on my team. When I feel comfortable with her, it also makes it easier for me to discuss some of the really hard issues I need to discuss. Understanding me is more than knowing about my symptoms. It is feeling my embarrassment or shame as things happen to my body, that I have no control of. Compassion helps because since my disability is private, I have few who really understand where I am coming from. It is nice for me to hear that I am understood, valued and accepted. I want to be identified with and partnered with, kind of like being in a club with others that have the same interest. Lastly I need it positive and hopeful. I want to feel like my doctor cares , understands and accepts me.
We are not born with empathy, it is something we learn. Many, with neurogenic bladders and bowels, get very little empathy from their doctors. Is it because of lack of time? Is it because of the subject matter? Is it a right brain left brain issue? For years I have heard the excuse that the doctor is really good but has no bedside manner. I have found that life is too short. I guess I am spoiled because I live in an area that has many quality doctors to choose from, so I have the freedom to shop. For me, an empathetic doctor is so important.
A good doctor is important to success. Before I found the urologist I have now, I thought I was going crazy. Empathy defiantly has a practical side. When you select an urologist, ask about their treatment system for bladder infections. We don’t plan on getting infections on weekends and holidays but let’s face it, we just do. We need proactive doctors, not lazy ones. I know that this seems harsh, but my condition is with me all of the time. It never goes away, even on weekends and holidays. If our medical needs aren’t covered, then we can die or at least feel like we are. We all agree on competency for a doctor, but would an empathic doctor leave us on the learch suffering over a weekend anyway? Competency and empathy are equally important.
The definition of empathy from Mr. Webster… the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present, without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for empathy
A quote on empathy…..Empathy is really the opposite of spiritual meanness. It's the capacity to understand that every war is both won and lost. And that someone else's pain is as meaningful as your own. Barbara Kingsolver
I realize that many of the readers of this blog have to wait a very long time to see a specialist and when they finally get to see one, being picky about the Urologist or Neurologist personality is not an option. I get that. We all want an empathetic doctor but it does not always happen.
We can start by showing empathy to each other and hope that the medical community understands our very longing to be treated as a living soul not a number or meal ticket.