Remember the good old family doctor carrying a black first aid box (my father still carries one in his old fiat car) containing stethoscope and medicines? The doctor who used to visit patients in their home and often enquire himself about the patient’s progress! Those days are gone. Doctors are too busy to enquire about patients and however sick, the patient has to be somehow rushed to the nearest clinic or hospital by the family members. This is quite OK, because now we have access to lot many hospitals nearby. There are lot many doctors too! But this is where the problem arises for the common man – How to know whether the doctor one has approached is competent and proficient?
Recently I came across a few experiences of my acquaintances which actually inspired this topic. Some developed reaction from the prescribed medication and some received exactly opposite views from two different doctors. So how to judge a doctor?
Here are a few tips to know your doctor-
1. General reputation- Ask your friends and relatives about their experiences about a particular doctor, if they happen to know him. Try to find out the reputation of the doctor. This you can even do when you are waiting for your turn in the waiting room, by talking to other patients their.
2. Qualifications and experience- Not all post graduate doctors are good doctors, nor are all graduates bad doctors. A higher degree certainly means more knowledge about the job.
Experience is more important in medicine. It is called medical practice because skills develop as one treats different people with different body types and symptoms. The more the doctor practices the more he learns as his instincts develop to diagnose the possible causes and suggest treatments.
My son’s permanent teeth appeared without the milk teeth falling. I casually showed it to one dentist friend. She advised immediate extraction, otherwise my son will have to live with distorted teeth. My father (a dentist in his late 70s) took a look and calmly told his grandson to keep pushing the teeth with his tongue. The milk teeth fell after some days and the permanent teeth naturally and gradually moved to its right position. (One of his other teeth did require a complex extraction surgery). Its not that all young doctors are to be doubted, but experience certainly is very important in the medical field. Young doctors learn with practice. Therefore, along with academic qualifications, look for the number of years of practice and the type of places/hospitals the doctor has worked in.
3. Good listener- Doctors need detailed history of the patient to diagnose the problem. Observe whether the doctor lets you speak freely without interrupting often and listens intently to what you are saying. Only a good listener can catch the problem from the seemingly most insignificant detail of history or symptoms given by the patient.
4. Sharp, analytical and logical thinking- Diagnosing a problem requires intelligence, alertness and patience. Sometimes the symptoms are not clear and doctors have to proceed one step at a time or begin with simple medication and wait and watch the results. If the doctor has any doubts or difficulty diagnosing, he should consult his seniors and also explain it to the patient, before jumping to a conclusion. Doctors need to have sharp analytical mind. Once my son developed rashes all over his body when he was under medication for severe cold. The doctor who prescribed medicine for the cold thought it to be a reaction of the medicine and prescribed some other medicines. Neither the cold with fever nor the rashes were abating. We consulted a skin specialist for the rashes and it turned out to be due to insect bite. Also the common cold diagnosed by the first doctor turned out to be a severe ear infection, when we consulted a senior peadiatrist.
5. Skill- Surgery is a skillful art. This can be judged by the most basic skill of giving injection. The degree of pain you feel when the needle pricks the skin will be different with different doctors. This basic skill is an indication of thedoctor’s surgical skills.
6. Take second opinion if there’s any suspicion- If you don’t feel confident about the doctor you have approached because your health is not improving or you develop reactions, consult other doctor.
7. Attitude- The attitude of the doctor should infuse confidence in the patient. The confidence, poise and warmth of the doctor give the patient courage and hope to go through all the process of treatment. Doctors should be calm and confident. Medicine is not for those who panic easily. It needs patience and courage. Also, treatment is not all about medicines; positive frame of mind too plays an important role in recovery. The doctor’s behavior should inspire positive thinking and happiness.
Medicine is a difficult profession, which requires lots of intelligence, patience and compassion for humanity. Doctors have to understand the patient’s psychology too. It is therefore very important to possess an attitude that makes the patient comfortable and instill faith in the doctor’s abilities.
Lastly, the most important test of the doctor’s capabilities is your recovery!