I absolutely love animals, all kinds of animals, some more than others. If it chirps, barks, meows, cackles, caws, yelps or even screeches far too loud at 4 A.M, I’m probably willing to feed and care for it. Not that city code will allow me to farm my own chicken eggs at the cost of the most irritating rooster of all time, nor find neighbors that want to endure it. Animals are very highly valued in my family. Loved so dearly, my boys have been unceasing in asking for two dogs. Not one dog, mind you, but they each want their own.
So it is no surprise that during my childhood I wanted nothing more than to have an in-depth conversation with the squirrel that lived in the pine tree outside my room, and get the latest pasture ditch from my favorite horse, Rebel. I wanted the ability to speak to creatures of all kinds, to the point of sending the request to Santa Clause as 7 years old. Obviously, Santa didn’t hear me back then.
Past eight years old I was fascinated by the power to hear and speak to animals, to learn how they interpreted the world, and know what they wished humans would understand about them, free of misguided assumptions. I had always felt misunderstood as a child. Being a woman of 17 different nationalities, growing up in a city where I was the singular woman of minority background, created unbearable isolation much of the time. Animals were my escape and if there were to be any voices that looked at things as differently as I did my city, it would be them.
Having matured chronologically, I still felt an incredible sense of disconnect from those around me. Sadly, my childhood was harsh, full of physical, mental and sexual abuse, but worse, far worse to me personally, was the absence of spiritual strength. I can recall one of the most powerful lessons I learned as an emerging adult was compassion. For all the education my adoptive family had, compassion was remarkably absent. Not to be confused with a lack of kindness. My parents were very kind-hearted people. During childhood, my mother did what she could to create connections, but compassion was not anything she received in her own childhood and my father’s mother was not well enough to nurture her young aspiring children. Kindness was something cherished. I am grateful, and absolutely in awe of how each of my parents has also grown in compassion through the years. For all they lacked in early childhood, they made up for in the last 7 years more than even I thought possible. Something for me to live up too and it’s invigorating.
Perhaps later I can expand on that, but what is important for this discussion is that those missing lessons made relating to others difficult at first. Animals provided a connection not based on my ability to articulate complex feelings, but rather the unspoken tenderness created when two spend time together without the presence of judgment. Animals love unconditionally and taught me love without preconditions other than to love without pain. To animals, painful love is a fearful one and devoid of any trust-building characteristics. Humans are the same in that abuse is counter-productive to trust building, ignoring abuse is the same as abuse. Animals love in a pure form, much like a young child does.
The thought of being able to speak with and understand animals in a literal aspect seemed ideal at age 12. Fast forward now to age 47, much of what that 12-year-old felt lives on. Although I must admit, I have no real desire to strike up a conversation with my neighbor’s exotic tree frog, or their son’s bearded lizard. I am quite sure those lovely creatures have insightful conversations to share. It’s just that I would rather chirp along with the Cardinals I see every morning in my tree out back—moment to shake off the shivers I just got.
Compassion was and is a powerful, intricate part of experiencing and engaging in life for me. It functions as a true base of my thinking and mindful state of living. So when I come across others, especially those in healthcare, lacking that aspect in demonstrated behavior and conversations, I cringe. I find myself asking, are they that unkind to their family pet? Or do they go home and immediately scoop up their pooch and plant kisses on it? Their fluffy dog that probably just licked its butt before walking in the door.
I ask, what language is this physician speaking? Not as in English, Spanish or French verbal language speaking. I refer to what is this person’s emotional language? Because in all the interactions my children and I are forced to have due to the hundreds of medical services needed. I have met far too many Dr. Dolittles. They speak to and treat animals better than people. They seemingly perform duties with greater attention when an animal is involved. They demonstrate more compassion and patience towards family pets or a coworker’s playful animal than the human patients they treat. How do I know that you ask? Close observation, frequent interactions, a bit of research, demonstrated behavior, pictures in their office, even their choice of clothing.
The real Dr. Dolittle, a character in a movie that so many fell in love with. Eddie Murphy’s movie was not my favorite, but the whole rediscovery of a part of himself spoke to me. If you think about the reactions of those characters in the movie, the partners were not too happy with the change in behavior. Why is that, that the first time you are amazed by a Dr is when they do anything but treat your conditions or those of your loved one. I am waiting for someone to have on their practice door…”The Amazing Dr. Dolittle resides here…”. I have a completely different interpretation of that type of physician. They are absolutely a Do Little. Speaking a language but not at all that of the patient.
Introducing the Amazing Dr. DoLittle. The medical doctor who does very little for you, or does little to connect with you, or who lacks appropriate compassion to be trustworthy. A Do Little, Dr, is risky. Do Little physicians are inattentive because there are no true connections. They have little to do with your personal factors, some of which can impact your diagnosis, conditions, healing path or actual medical needs. An example would be a Do Little in a rush to leave for the day, maybe to go walk their dog, who knows, but has tuned out and become hard, not keeping track of their dwindling compassion. So they cut you off assuming all the details are known and prescribe a medication you have tried before originally at a different practice, maybe just one he/she hadn’t personally prescribed before. When an individual is drained, strained or tired, compassion aids in slowing one down to hear, and perceive their patient in pain needs more time to get all the thoughts out and would have mentioned I tried and failed on Lasik before, and my potassium dropped to low. Compassion is the glue to coherent decision making. It’s the safeguard to carelessness. Dr. DoLittle will not take the time for that. The arrogance and impersonal posturing glaze right over those needs.
I would seek out the real Dr. Dolitte if one existed. I might just get two dogs, one for each child if such an incredible Dr was available. The vet bills would be so much less because real conversations would take place. The same is true in the medical world. You kinda need to talk to the patient to know whats wrong, right? I mean, that is a basic rule. How many of us would gladly hurl some four-letter-words at a vet who grabs our beloved dog making it yelp because they failed to be gentle? Whoa, buddy, I can feel the seething anger through the web right now as some think upon it. Therefore, there really should be no Dr. DoLittle in the human medical world of the physician talent pool. Those Do Little providers, need to, well, do little and find a different line of work.
The challenge for all of us, consumers of medical services, is to correctly identify those ignorant useless Dr. DoLittle providers. Who really do cost thousands of wasted dollars just being tuned out. Recognizing the warning signs of DoLittles is really urgent. A few telltale signs for me, maybe tailored a bit to my personality style. Where I may pick up on body language and facial expressions or a manner of office structure. You may catch word phrases to tip you off. Most of these tips can be used by anyone. You may even have a few of your own to add, that perhaps I have not seen. No rules, just tips to help each other.
Some of the signs I have found useful are, chronically behind schedule by more than 20 minutes. Stressed out nurses and nurse assistants who unknowingly share expressions that the Dr is difficult. Not “oh Dr. Simmons is hard for us nurses to work with”. More on the lines of, Dr. Simmons likes everything to go by him first, so I can’t schedule your test he has ordered until all his notes are completed for the day” That type of micro-managing that strips other professionals experience and value away. If a physician does not value his nurses, MOVE ON BY.
Limited to no eye contact is another warning sign. If after the very first introduction all the personableness disappears I would be on high alert, looking for more signs. “Hi I am Dr. Lancer, so what brings you here today”. Is different than, “Hi I’m Dr. Lancer, how can I help you today? What is concerning you today”? Although the first is perfectly acceptable, there is often other expressions and behavior to nearly prevent any personal connection building. It is the tone of indifference to look for.
If a physician needs to speak very loudly all the time, always have the last word, correct your language or word choices and nearly cross-examine you, I would have concerns for their fitness to practice safe medicine. I had a nurse tell me once her physician is a stickler for using proper grammar. I said “well, I anit stayin in this heer room. Have a super awesome grand day, kinda kick butt diddly do day”! No, really, I mean it. I left and addressed the practice manager why I was leaving to ensure I was not charged a no-show fee. She agreed and apologized with a statement of, “occasionally we do have demeanor challenges with Dr. DoLittle. He means well and people misunderstand him”. No, they don’t, it’s a protective statement to make people doubt their gut. Which simply confirmed my observations and perceptions. I did not see any other physicians in that practice after that. Too risky that an already established “excuse” was standardized there. That DoLittle would have made a serious medical error. Not worth my money, time or expertise. Drs who I have to teach manners too are exhausting and unless they want to pay my professional consult fees, need to go elsewhere for their education.
I could go on forever and give so many details you might wonder if any good doctors really exist. I am happy to report caring, compassionate Drs do exist. I can also assert you will have to look for them. There are those gray areas and a Dr you see 1-2 times a year carry less urgency than one seen monthly. If that once a year Dr is your GYN provider, make sure to get a compassionate one.
I wish these decisions were easy. Honestly, it should not be necessary to have such discussion. All providers should be compassionate, personable, trustworthy ones. Sadly, that is not the case. My children and I are fortunate that experience has afforded us some great physicians who are compassionate and very invested. Even with those, however, changes can be subtle and vigilance is warranted. One who has been with us for 9 years crumbled lately and I am repositioning myself within our way of relating. That is a temporary adjustment for now and should things slip further down a road unwanted, I will consider moving on.
Reading this blog, I would wonder, does she hate all Drs? What is her problem and suspicion of them really about? How perceptive of you. I do not have a problem with Drs in general. In fact, I have had the honor of working with some extraordinary human beings who happen to also be physicians, both medical and mental health. Some of those experiences and interactions have been professional and some provider-patient based. I would not be as capable of measuring lacking Drs if good ones had not been around to compare. The old statue, treat people as you want to be treated, is a great one to follow. Keep your physicians accountable to that or at least use as a measure.
I have also had horrible, miserable, toxic physicians, providers of many sorts and the social workers working in the medical fields. Those also serve as a measure of failure, risk, and negligence. These were both professional and provider-patient interactions. Everything from a cardiologist who was so insulted that an anesthetist communicated the patient was not under enough and he needed to halt the procedure for adjustment. The cardiologist with too much ego, and not liking the fact an anesthesia Dr has the final word in an OR, lifted and dropped the patients head to prove “he’s is under just fine”. Devaluing another person is a huge warning sign.
I was outraged dealing with the aftermath of that patient’s death and knowing a DoLittle was at fault. It hurt and cut so deep. I truly struggled to not quit. However, it was then I realized I was in a position to examine in-depth, the profile of people like that. I had the end results right in my lap of what is a Dolittle and what is not. The anesthetist was a brilliant compassionate physician I respect to this day. Not only did he surpass all his colleagues he sits on the board and directs the path of others now, making a huge difference in OR communications happening between physicians.
I was assaulted by a physician once and that was a completely different DoLittle. DoTooMuch that one was. But he misjudged my courage and will for justice. Once I came forward and refused to buckle under his countersuit for defaming, 22 other victims filed in 3 states. He no longer has a license to practice anymore. Not that it was good, but the fact so many other women had been assaulted with far more serious injuries, it was not necessary to go through a difficult trial. He is a registered sex offender now. He managed to claim bankruptcy in another state before any damages were sent out. So, hmmm, yes you denote some distant hostility very deeply kept. Not in an unhealthy way. It serves as a brutally earned guidepost. Much like a profiler does after having successfully deconstructed a serial killer. Know your enemy, be intimate in that knowledge as deeply as the crime inflicted. Its gross to put it that way, cringe-worthy, but powerful in the sense I control the action and it’s direction and not at all subject to a sick demented fool.
The assault took place before I became a professional in the medical field and really did drive my passion for excellence in healthcare. It created an intense desire to educate others, employers and people, into recognizing the patterns of a person strategically positioning themselves to find and exploit victims, whether in a sexual way or in terms of workplace abuses.
I had an employee call me from a restroom one day who had locked herself in because a suspect physician suddenly came in early on a day she was scheduled alone. Thankfully that resolved without further incident, but it should have been avoided through careful attention to warning signs. I am so grateful for her. Her decision to do that allowed us to finish investigations without him ever knowing it was taking place assuming the lock malfunctioned. She is doing well these days and owns her own play-therapy practice. Talk about turning a horrible experience around.
In more rural areas, choices can be limited and that’s a hard place to be. The same goes for a city where only one health system treats a demographic. Winston-Salem, NC has Novant Healthcare and Wake Forest Baptist. Because only wake Forest has pediatric inpatient floors, there is great disparity at times in the approach to patient interactions. Understanding where DoLittle populations flood is important. The lack of competition is dangerous to the patient population. Research is best.
Even in questionable healthcare systems, individual Drs can be superb. Take the time to research if a particular health system has a more hostile, aggressive approach to any area. Nothing is worse than moving to a city just to find out the entire system seems to fall into a DoLittle mentality. My family has been through that and it is why we live where we do for now. Everywhere is different, and a healthcare system can be bought out by a much stronger, open-minded one and transform, just as it can go from friendly to cold stone profit above all else, including loss of compassion.
As with any good relationship, it takes effort and understanding. True compassion for what each must face. Even if you were fortunate enough to be taught lessons of compassion growing up, challenge yourself to see how many forms of it really exist. You might be surprised to discover, what you identify as compassion is a mere sample of a bigger compassion horizon. I continue to do that myself. I try to not assume I have it all figured out. Each person I meet can teach a lesson good or bad. Beneficially or of no benefit at all.
The depth and variety of healthcare providers are vast. From one end of the spectrum to the other, physicians emerge and display all sorts of skills. That variety means you can find one that meets your very specific needs. The same goes for nursing home, home health, foster homes for intellectual disabilities, clinical therapist and the like. Dr. DoLittles really do make it necessary to have the difficult conversations and spend the emotional energy during medical visits to ensure the best care possible. It’s hard, frustrating, and easy to give up. I wish I could say I manage it each time myself. I don’t get it right as much as I want to. Emotions can run high, illness dull perceptions and crunched times create false tension. So it can be a bit of trial and error. But if your gut is screaming something is off, step back. Typically those gut feelings are right.
Remember, you do not have to prove anything. You do not owe a practice an explanation for why you are leaving or making a better choice for yourself. It’s your mind and free to go wherever it wants, whenever it wants.
A physician can not hold your records hostage or insist on knowing where you are going. As long as your insurance is accepted where you want to go, nothing is stopping you. Even a Medicaid patient has the right to switch although more problematic.
I love animals. I really do, they teach so many accidental lessons. Sometimes those lessons are to not lay on the floor and do yoga if the cat is in pounce mode. Others may be to lock up your fluffy hats your dog must eat every night, too the rhythmic chirp of a beloved parakeet.
I just prefer to keep any Amazing Dr. Dolittles on the theater screen and out of my delicate and important medical life.—Pamela Juers
Author Pamela Juers and son Zane
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