41 Secrets Your Doctor Would Never Share

Reader’s Digest offered two dozen doctors a chance to tell it like it really is, and general practitioners, surgeons, shrinks, pediatricians, and other specialists took the challenge.Some wanted to be anonymous; some didn’t care. But all of them revealed funny, frightening, and downright shocking things that can help you be a better, smarter patient.

We’re Impatient

• I am utterly tired of being your mother. Every time I see you, I have to say the obligatory “You need to lose some weight.” But you swear you “don’t eat anything” or “the weight just doesn’t come off,” and the subject is dropped. Then you come in here
complaining about your knees hurting, your back is killing you, your feet ache, and you can’t breathe when you walk up half a flight of stairs. So I’m supposed to hold your hand and talk you into backing away from that box of Twinkies. Boy, do I get tired of repeating the stuff most patients just don’t listen to.
Cardiologist, Brooklyn, New York

Medical Secrets© 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

• I was told in school to put a patient in a gown when he isn’t listening or cooperating. It casts him in a position of subservience.

Chiropractor, Atlanta

• Thank you for bringing in a sample of your (stool, urine, etc.) from home. I’ll put it in my personal collection of things that really gross me out.
Douglas Farrago, MD, editor, Placebo Journal

• One of the things that bug me is people who leave their cell phones on. I’m running on a very tight schedule, and I want to spend as much time with patients as I possibly can. Use that time to get the information and the process you need. Please don’t answer the cell.
James Dillard, MD, pain specialist, New York City

• I wish patients would take more responsibility for their own health and stop relying on me to bail them out of their own problems.
ER physician, Colorado Springs, Colorado

• So let me get this straight: You want a referral to three specialists, an MRI, the medication you saw on TV, and an extra hour for this visit. Gotcha. Do you want fries with that?
Douglas Farrago, MD

• I used to have my secretary page me after I had spent five minutes in the room with a difficult or overly chatty patient. Then I’d run out, saying, “Oh, I have an emergency.”
Oncologist, Santa Cruz, California

• Many patients assume that female physicians are nurses or therapists. I can’t tell you how often I’ve introduced myself as Dr. M. and then been called a nurse, therapist, or aide and asked to fetch coffee or perform other similar tasks. I have great respect for our nurses and other ancillary personnel and the work they do, but this doesn’t seem to happen to my male colleagues.
Physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor, Royal Oak, Michigan

• The most unsettling thing for a physician is when the patient doesn’t trust you or believe you.
Obstetrician-gynecologist, New York City

• It really bugs me when people come to the ER for fairly trivial things that could be dealt with at home.
ER physician, Colorado Springs, Colorado

• Your doctor generally knows more than a website. I have patients with whom I spend enormous amounts of time, explaining things and coming up with a treatment strategy. Then I get e-mails a few days later, saying they were looking at this website that says something completely different and wacky, and they want to do that. To which I want to say (but I don’t), “So why don’t you get the website to take over your care?”
James Dillard, MD

• I know that Reader’s Digest recommends bringing in a complete list of all your symptoms, but every time you do, it only reinforces my desire to quit this profession.
Douglas Farrago, MD

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