Guest blogger Peggy Zuckerman tells us a story about a young competent doctor and how transparency and openness is key to giving better care. Peggy Zuckerman never intended to be a patient advocate, not even a patient! But after her diagnosis with a “tiny, scabbed-over ulcer”, later determined to be metastatic kidney cancer, she became a patient. And after gaining support and knowledge from online friends and resources, she became an engaged patient and patient advocate. She blogs about kidney cancer and patient engagement, www.peggyRCC.wordpress.com . Currently in her last quarter at UCLA in their Patient Advocate course, and alive nine years after her cancer diagnosis, she thinks as learned and taught a thing or two about being a patient and an advocate
Yesterday I spoke to my 78-year old stepmother, who lives in a big town in South Dakota. That translates to a small rural town, by any standards but in the Dakotas. She was referred to a local dermatologist after her primary doctor noted that she had a small cancer on her upper lip.
Waiting in the small clinic treatment room she examined the mix of diplomas, and found the last one given to the referred doctor—with a 2012 date. In came the doctor, who looked at least a few years older than her college-age grandson, but not by much, she said. The doctor greeted her by name, shook her hand, and noted that she had seen his predecessor, who had since retired.
“Couldn’t help but notice your 2012 diploma,” notes my stepmother.
“And I bet that scares you a bit! Just to let you know, so you don’t have to ask, I have done 2,036 procedures like the one we will discuss. I will answer any questions you have and you can decide if you want to work with me.”
With that honesty and openness, she agreed to the procedure, but before leaving, told the doctor that her husband had a spot she was worried about.
A quick look at his arm and his records—electronic, of course—the young doctor saw that the husband was a patient of another doctor in the practice. “Let me get her; she should take a look at this.” With that, the young doctor left and returned with a young woman from down the hall.
“You’re coming with me, and we’ll take care of that right now,” says the female doctor, leading the eighty year man out the door. “He’ll be right back.” And he was, less one small lesion.
The following week, my stepmother had the procedure done early in the day, and at five o’clock, got a call from the young doctor. “Just checking up on you, and making sure you have my number. You call me day or night if that thing starts bleeding.”
Weeks later, on a follow-up, the couple returned. She was fine, but asked the doctor to check a second small mark on the husband’s arm. “Think we’ll just freeze that off—but don’t tell the girls up front—they’ll just charge you anyway.”
Out the door went my stepmother and her husband, who nodded to the girls up front and said, “That is a real doctor.”
Caring, professional, efficient, competent. “That is a real doctor.”