What is the Capital of France?
A question of trivia perchance
The assumed answer must be
The city of Paris
But is this the correct assumption?
The literal answer to the question is a letter
So a different question would be better
If the wording is altered
we are no longer faltered
and foiled by err of presumption.
If a question is open to interpretation, the possible answers could all make sense.
When you are asking questions about your medical care, you could ask the same question to different carers, and each time you could get a different response. Or you could reword your original question with the same carer and get a different response.
I once asked my doctor what I thought was a straightforward and simple question:
(this originally appeared on my tumblr)
I would like to share with you my recent experience of your ‘care’. I feel that your ‘bedside manner’ is non-existent. I hope that perhaps by sharing this experience it may help to improve your service. I appreciate your medical expertise and talent, you did not fail me there. But it is very important to consider the mental well being of patients and ensure that they have a basic understanding of procedures and recovery. It is here you failed me.
I wish at the very least you had spend a few minutes explaining the procedure and recovery during the initial visit, and had given me the opportunity to decide for myself when to have the procedure done. It would have been very helpful to understand the reality of the recovery, rather than down playing it and brushing aside my questions. This would have given me opportunity to organise the support I needed. It would have been nice if you had asked about my circumstances (working? Mother? Any important events in the weeks post-procedure?) so that I could organise the procedure better. This would not have taken very long and would have made the experience much less daunting and difficult to bear. In hindsight I see now that I lacked Basic Information. I did not know what questions to ask and you did not give me an opportunity to ask any.
I needed to know:
- What will the procedure involve.
- How many appointments I would need and when.
- What recovery would involve.
- That I (or my husband as it was) would need time off work.
- The risks of the procedure!
- The urgency (or lack thereof) of the procedure
These are all things that in hindsight, I needed to know, but at the initial appointment I did not know to ask. I did manage to ask if I would walk, to which you dismissively said “yes”. This seemed enough. At the time. It also turned out to be Wrong. I trusted you.
All I can say is I am Glad you were removing a mole and not baby (as I now know is one of your specialties)
If I had known the questions to ask and how to ask them, my experience would have been a positive one. I would have timed it better. I would have been prepared. I would have felt heard and respected. As I stated in the ‘letter’, thank goodness it was just a mole (a mole on my sole). If this doctor had been my obstetrician, this letter would have been one steeped in Birth Trauma. A trauma that would have been avoided, or at least eased, with proper communication.
My question, my only question, to this doctor was:
Will I be able to walk?
He interpreted this, perhaps, as a dramatic “Tell me Doc, will I ever walk again?”
Perhaps he thought I was being Melanoma-dramatic?
What I should have asked was “will I need crutches?”
and “are there follow up appointments?”
It seems obvious now, but one assumes that the medical carer cares and will be providing all the information needed to understand. This assumption is wrong. NEVER assume. This particular doctor never ‘saw’ me. At each follow up appointment it was like meeting him for the first time. He never remembered my face. He never acknowledged my existence. To him, I was just a mole on a sole. Then a mole in a dish. Then just a stitch.
Why did I go to this doctor? Because he was the expert. He was the mole man. The skin specialist, a technical wonder. With zero bedside manner. With zero care. He was a practitioner, medically skilled. What he lacked was people skills. And this matters.
Whether we are talking trivial matters or medical matters: the wording of the question matters.