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Saturday, 2 July 2016

How to Make Your Doctor Happy

Yesterday, I noticed a few patients wishing their doctors Happy Doctors Day – some in person, others through social media. Most doctors must have just smiled, said a simple thank you and continued with their work for it was just another day in their fight against disease and ill-health.

But I couldn’t help musing that if only some patients and their families had to change part of their attitudes during their episodes of ill health, it would make doctors much more happy not just on one day, but throughout the year – a fact that is definitely to the advantage of those at the receiving end of the doctor’s ministrations.

If you want to truly make your doctor happy, here are a few things you could try.
  • Tell your symptoms once to the doctor and then wait for him to diagnose what the problem is. Don’t keep repeating yourself – he is intelligent enough to understand what you’re saying the first time he hears it. Your repetition only clutters his mental space and is more likely to interfere with his decision making process than actually do any good.
  • Answer the doctor’s questions with precision; don’t ramble on and on about how you feel so miserable
  • Don’t blow up your symptoms in a bid to gain sympathy from the doctor or to convince her of the gravity of your problem – you may end up getting diagnosed with something you don’t have.
  • Don’t use your half-baked knowledge (from the experience of a friend or relative) or the selective interpretation you’ve made using Google Guru on the doctor. She has trained for a minimum of 7 to 8 years on her subject and knows a lot about it – your contribution to her knowledge base is negligible to say the least and if she doesn’t give you a piece of her mind when you act too smart, its only out of good-natured tolerance.
  • Follow the doctor’s advice faithfully, stay observant of the changes in your condition and report back accurately. It’s your responsibility to recover, not your doctor’s – so be a partner in your recovery process.
  • Asking if a drug will cause side effects is a foolish question. When you choose to introduce a chemical into your body, there is bound to be some or the other discomfort. Your doctor will have weighed the pros and cons of a particular drug before administering it to you. There are no free lunches anywhere – especially not in medicine. By all means ask about any serious effects to watch out for and how to combat them – but the world won’t end if you suffer from a little indigestion or mild drowsiness for a day or two.
  • If you believe a particular treatment will work for you, it is more likely to really work – that is called the “Placebo effect.” But be warned – research is increasingly showing that the reverse can also occur – there is something called the “Nocebo effect”: if you approach the medication the doctor prescribes with the fear that it will cause side effects – it probably will. If you’ve made a habit of taking the prescribed treatment with the foreboding that it will not work, no second or third or zillionth opinion is going to make a difference.
  • Don’t expect the doctor to work miracles – she is not God.
  • Because he is also human, a doctor needs time to rest and get away from his profession at least occasionally. Don’t corner him with your health problems when you meet him in social situations. If you’re really suffering, book an appointment at the clinic or the hospital where he’s practicing.

All these things that I have pointed out are not rocket science – they are more like common sense to me. But then, like they say, “Common sense is not so common.” And then, it become even more uncommon when you’re stressed with ill-health and the emotional effects of the illness. So, I’ve taken the liberty of giving these pointers. If there is indeed any doctor reading this piece – this is my way of saying, “Thank you, dear doctor.”

Disclaimer: One of my sisters is a physician and another a psychiatrist; a close cousin is an orthopedic surgeon. This piece is entirely based on my understanding of their experiences and some common sense that comes out of being a pharmacist myself. Therefore, there is a definite tilt in my perception of these issues. Having diligent doctors in the family means that I have not really been exposed to situations arising out of interaction with the few irresponsible healthcare practitioners who also, unfortunately, exist in the medical fraternity.


  1. Thanks for the lovely piece Anusuya. Exactly what is needed for doctors. Do publish it on print media, for more people to read and understand!

    1. Glad you liked it, Dr. Preethi..will try to do as you suggest. My doc sister is saying she will edit it slightly and use as a patient handout ;-)

  2. Wow. This is a doctor's dream come true. When i form a doctor's advocacy group i will make you the chief.... I really liked reading it. I m planning to edit it a bit and keep it as a ready handout to appropriate /suitable individuals.

  3. I also enjoy reading the comments, but notice that a lot of people should stay on topic


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