I often care for patients who have spent their lives avoiding doctors. They may be young or they may be in their 90's but they have little “practice” being patients. So where do I fit in? How can I help?
These patients hope I will be a different kind of doctor than the ones they tell me they've avoided over the years. Luckily, I do practice a different kind of medicine, one that focuses not on a particular organ system or disease, but on the overall wellbeing of each individual who entrusts me with their care.
So, even though these folks may never have taken even one aspirin or gotten a flu shot in the past, even though they took everything doctors said with more than a grain of salt, they have called because they want my expertise. They are suffering and they hope I have some answers for them. All my tools are at the ready, but my most useful tool is my intuition.
If a patient signals they are skittish about having their blood pressure taken at the first visit, I may wait until we've developed more of a rapport. My approach is to meet people where they are. I may try to convince them of the wisdom of some particular intervention or I may realize before I even start that this is not a road they're willing to go down. I do what I can, and when necessary look for alternative paths that may achieve the same goal.
Each of us is vulnerable in the face of illness. Respect for my patients, even for the ones who don't much like doctors, is part of my job. It's a challenge I enjoy. It's where I start from every day I go out on house calls, meeting people at least halfway.