You’ll Be Fine by Pat Conrad MD

For years I have gotten laughs from non-medical, administrative types in health care, saying that it would be easy for them to step into my shoes, with just one simple skill.  I’ve maintained that any CEO, CFO, or credentialing assistant could slap on a white coat, stethoscope, and start seeing patients if they could just deliver one simple phrase:  “You’ll be fine.”  Of course, it took me all of med school and residency, and a number of years to be able to master the timing, meter, tone, facial expression, and overall sincerity of marketing that makes that phrase an effective treatment.

I’m half-joking, but it makes the point.  Really, what the hell is the purpose of this zany profession anyway?  Who are we trying to serve, and how?  I always understood the goal was to help people feel better, and to have longer, happier lives, through reassurance among other means.  But what people?  Doesn’t “authentic” medicine involve the occasional tough love, kick in the pants, and admonition to join with the physician in collaboration toward the client’s better state?  I don’t want to be judgmental or preachy in the exam room, and apart from my area of expertise, I don’t want to tell ANYBODY what to do.  We have an entire city and political apparatus already handling that just fine.  In fact, I don’t even want to tell patients what to do as much as I want to advise them and stand back as they make the call.

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But what a sort of patient is a world gone mad increasingly producing?  Medicare holds a doctor liable if he cannot speak Swahili or Spanish and cannot afford a translator; doctors have been threatened for referring to the morbidly obese as “fat”; mandatory transgenderism celebration for providers is right around the corner.  Yes these are all minority cases, but it’s all too common for patients to want a pain pill, nerve pill, sleep pill, or mood pill for minor annoyances.  In the hands of a institutionalized wispiness, even reassurance becomes a toxin.  What is happening to our reserves of stoicism, resilience, and dang ol’ toughness?  After reading these revelations about our newest healers, professional cuddlers, I really have to wonder.  We were taught in medical training to seek to really get to know our patients.  I’m not sure how to reach a patient that would pay $80/hour for cuddling, but demands free health care, and doubt I would want to.

 

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