While it is very natural for a doctor to fall ill (blame it on the human bodies we too possess!), those around one, find it quite incredulous and amusing. I was recently hospitalized for five days and realized that while being patient comes naturally to a doctor, it is very difficult for a doctor to be a patient! Here’s why:
- ‘How can you be sick? You are a doctor!’ This is the usual line you get from people around you. Trust me, it is the most irritating thing anyone can say to you. Can someone please tell these people that we do try to stay healthy but if we really could absolutely prevent sickness, none of the doctors would ever fall ill or grow old and die, for that matter? Call it ironical if you want, but we are mere human beings too. Moreover, a doctor’s profession exposes him/her to microbes on a daily basis and it takes a Herculean effort to retain good health despite that.
- The belief that a doctor knows it all. The hospital staff doesn’t treat you the same as other patients. While I was clutching at my stomach trying my best not to scream due to the terrible pain I had in my abdomen, the nurse calmly commented, ‘Ma’am, I have given you two shots of a painkiller. You are a doctor, you only tell me what I should give to you now?’ She might have said it in a good sense but at that moment, I could hardly speak due to the pain, leave alone use clinical discretion and prescribe myself a drug. Sometimes, doctors need doctors too!
- It is difficult to see the mistakes and keep shut. Once I was out of the acute phase of the illness, I was my normal analytical, critical self. As a doctor, it is hard to see the nursing and other paramedical staff make mistakes and not tell them how to do it right or in a better way. I did try hard to behave just as a patient, but gave in to the impulse a couple of times too. I know the staff doesn’t look forward to caring for the likes of me.
- The pressure of being brave. As a patient, you can get away with crying, shouting and being non-co-operative when you are undergoing an uncomfortable or painful procedure. As a patient who is also a doctor, even your treating physician expects you to be ultra co-operative and brave through it all. Then there is your own ego-issue as well to not come down as a whiny. Phew, it is tough!
- Sympathy? You wish! As a patient, you do not get the same level of sympathy from others as the non-medico members of your family or friend circle get. Again probably due to the reasoning that a doctor would know how to take care of herself. No one will remind you to take the medicine pill, pamper you or tell you to take it easy because you know, you know?
Falling sick is terrible and difficult, agreed; being a doctor and falling sick? It is awfully hard! As I stumble back to health, I am taking far too much care of myself for I don’t want to land up as a patient again, at least as long as I can help it!