Let’s Talk about Healthcare

Posted: September 9, 2021 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

A disclaimer or two and a note before I get started: This is most definitely a rant. I am seriously done with being told to be more patient about my lack of patience with healthcare. People who subtly shame those of us who struggle just to get through each day apparently have no idea how hard that can be and how, sometimes, we’d rather just not be here than have to try. They also have no idea how damaging their attitude and words are. How it can take days to recover from an unkind word. It’s interesting how many people will accept and defend atrocious behavior from professionals, but condemn any attempts to manage it on the part of the rest of us.

I actually DO know how hard Jobs in healthcare can be. Some of my hardest work was as a nurse, treating psychotic and criminally insane patients. This is not meant to be an indictment of the truly good people working in healthcare. It is, however, to remind folks that being a patient is more than just sitting back and submitting to the behavior of others who think they are better than you.

I have been in an enormous amount of unrelenting pain over the past five weeks (think a pretty constant 8 on a 1-10 scale), and still I have worked full-time, done extra work freelancing, and have been volunteering with a couple of organizations. I have chronic, moderate-severe depression and complex PTSD, and I still get out of bed every morning and do what I’m “supposed” to. I don’t sleep all day, I engage with others, and the work I do I do well. I don’t neglect my health. I just finished writing a book on depression that provides many ideas for self-care, all of which I employ myself. By nature, I am not an overly cheerful person, but I have probably done more work on myself and my reactions to,,,well, everything, than anyone I know.

Hm…I think I may sound annoyed. Good. I’m not just annoyed; I’m pissed. I am done with being shamed for having an honest reaction to circumstances by people who think they know better. Or who think they know me. I’m also done with people who tell me to “push through” and be upbeat and positive about it, when all I ever do is push through. When you are in both physical and emotional pain, the kind of cheerful/toxic positivity people expect may just not be possible.

I finally decided to go to the doctor today about some of the pain I’ve been having. It’s been waking me at night, and I’ve been unable to do the normal daily things – like dishes – because of it. I currently go to a clinic and see a specific provider, but she was unavailable today, so I had to do a walk-in. The first time I went – 2:30 pm – they told me the provider was at lunch and to come back. I did, at 3:35 pm. They called me in after about 20 min, and there was only one other person in the waiting area. Someone did all the preliminary stuff, then told me it would be a few minutes. 90 minutes later, the NP walked in, saying hi and “Sorry for your wait, but that’s what you get when you walk in. You have to wait your turn. Too bad, so sad“ (Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up).

Let me stop here for a minute. I have a degree in nursing and worked in a local hospital in psychiatry for several years. I know what it’s like to be kicked, screamed and cursed at, and have furniture thrown at me. I have found visitors overdosing in the bathroom, patients that have hanged themselves, have had to call the police to manage hostile and abusive guests, have had guns pointed at me, and been threatened with knives. I’ve been belittled and shamed by doctors, had patients who set fire to their bed, and taken care of those deemed criminally insane.

I did all that while dealing with my own depression and a new diagnosis of epilepsy. And still, I never, EVER hollered at, demeaned, shamed, or belittled any of those patients. And, in fact, as charge nurse on the unit, I counseled those staff who did. I firmly believe when working with patients that the caregiver has no business inserting their own issues into the interaction. And if they are unable to put their issues aside, they need to step back and take a break.

So, back to my visit today. The nurse’s tone was derisive; even as she continued, she was attacking and sarcastic. She demanded I make an appointment for a couple of tests I’d already had done, wanted to know why I wasn’t on medicine for depression, and interrupted me repeatedly. Office visits with healthcare providers are very stressful for me long before I ever get there. I get hypertensive, anxious to the point of being nauseated, and I’d do just about anything to avoid them, so actually getting to the office is a bit of an accomplishment for me. To be yelled at and treated like I was no more than the dirt on the bottom of the provider’s shoe magnifies all of that stuff I was experiencing before I even got there. I often leave wanting never to go back. So my tolerance is, perhaps, not as enduring as it could be.

Although seriously, I waited ninety minutes today. I practiced my Scottish Gaelic and Arabic, made notes in my phone about upcoming responsibilities, and did some mindful breathing. No one popped their head in to make sure I was still upright. That’s more patience than a lot of people have. At the hour-and-fifteen-minute mark, though, I was starting to get a little antsy. And, apparently, according to people who think they know better and are helping, impatience was entirely inappropriate here.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot. My feelings of self-worth are easily diminished, and the lack of support and subtle shaming some offer is very damaging. So, I’m thinking that…I might have been a bit more patient and understanding if I didn’t have literally dozens of examples of instances where I was shamed or disregarded or harmed by medical providers, or I wasn’t simply the recipient of their incompetence. If I didn’t have examples of physicians who administered the wrong medicine or pharmacies who gave me someone else’s drugs or doctors who diagnosed my thick green mucus and cough as depression (it was actually pneumonia) or surgeons who put in the wrong material during my brain surgery or lost a pair of scissors during my hysterectomy. I would probably be more trusting and more patient if $240/hour doctors didn’t drop me because I was a month behind on a $50 bill or hospitals didn’t threaten and harass me during the pandemic to pay a bill I couldn’t afford–and was incurred due to a physician error–or if my pain hadn’t been misdiagnosed for over 40 years or my neurologist hadn’t provided a two-page letter outlining my last office visit to a complete stranger. I’d probably be more trusting if I had found out about any of that from them and didn’t have to find it all out on my own.

I could go on. These are all documented back decades, and to say there are dozens is, if anything, an understatement.

If you are a doctor, a nurse, or other healthcare provider, you are obligated to treat your patients with respect. Period. You’re also obligated to treat your patients as individuals and not as a one-size-fits-all diagnosis. You are required to avoid preventing further harm. That doesn’t mean you should put up with abuse. But even in abusive situations, there is a way to deal professionally with a patient and not cause additional harm. And if you are one of those who support the way healthcare in this country is conducted and managed, who puts doctors and medicine on a pedestal, you are part of the problem.

I always hear in response to my comments about healthcare: “Well, you wouldn’t say that if you really needed them.” I’ve had *brain surgery.* I have chronic illness and have had for years. I have been in the hospital many times with my seizure and med issues. I know exactly what it’s like to need a healthcare provider–to need specialty care, but I don’t think that means I have to submit to their incompetencies; I wholeheartedly believe that those who do simply submit are the ones who will always prevent medicine from getting better. If you need a body mechanic, you’re in good hands (well, some of the time, anyway) with doctors today. If you need any more than that, if your issue isn’t a clear issue that can be cut out and replaced, you may find that any care you get will not solve your problem and may contribute to longer-lasting (sometimes lifetime) ones.

I still believe that the most important thing in healthcare is self-advocacy. I just know now that advocating for yourself doesn’t always get you the care you need, and it certainly almost always puts you in the doghouse with people who think you should be obedient and worshipful toward the medical establishment at all costs.

Rant over. For now.

  1. rebeccakuder says:

    Reblogged this on Rebecca Kuder and commented:
    I’m grateful to The Grey Zone for this thoughtful post. May we evolve toward treating each other with at least basic respect—and despite whatever flurry of stress we may be experiencing, and whatever trauma we may be carrying, may we slow down well enough to ensure we do no harm to each other.

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