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A Global Apology On Behalf Of Physicians Everywhere

Lissa Rankin's picture

physicians, apology

Since I wrote this post about the doctor-patient relationship of the broken, outdated, patriarchal system, I’ve been inundated with emails from all of you, telling me your horror stories. (Fortunately, you’re also telling me the good stuff in response to this post about the doctor-patient relationship in The Pink Medicine, so thank you for that!)

Because of the state of affairs of our current health care system, especially as it is here in the US, I find myself apologizing on behalf of my profession often these days.

So let me do that formally, here on Owning Pink.

I’m Sorry To Anyone I’ve Hurt Personally

I’ll start with my personal apologies, most of which are aimed at people who knew me back when I was seeing 40 patients/day in a busy managed care practice.

I’m so sorry to that kid I chewed out in the grocery store after I had been on call for 72 hours - the one who couldn’t get my bagel scanned for the life of him, which led me to spew, “If I did my job the way you did your job, there would be dead people everywhere.”

I apologize to any patient who didn’t feel like she could speak up and tell me what she was really feeling because I was crabby or rushed or too caught up in my own pain to notice hers. I’m sorry to that nurse whose advice I may have dismissed or that OR tech I yelled at when he handed me the wrong instrument because he couldn’t read my mind. I’m sorry to that acupuncturist whose work I didn’t understand. I’m sorry to my medical assistant, who was doing the best she could, and I’m sorry to my husband, who I’m guilty of ordering around like he was part of my staff.

If I’ve ever hurt anyone because of how I practiced medicine or who I am, I’m truly, deeply sorry. Please forgive me.

And because they may be too tired, busy, or asleep to do it themselves, let me also apologize to all of you on behalf of physicians everywhere.

I’m Sorry, Patients

If you’re a patient (as we all are), I apologize for any doctor who touched you brusquely and without asking. I’m sorry for all the times a doctor asked you a question and then cut you off before you answered or answered your questions with technical jargon that left you feeling stupid and scared, if they took the time to answer you at all. I’m sorry someone laughed when you suggested that your rash might be stress-related, and I’m sorry someone looked visibly annoyed when you did your homework and showed up to your appointment with internet printouts.

I’m sorry you overheard your doctor call you “Room 314,” and I’m sorry your doctor called you over the phone to tell you that your biopsy was cancerous, rather than delivering the results with a hug, the way it should be. I’m sorry your doctor stormed out when you refused to take the anti-depressants he prescribed to treat your menopausal symptoms, and I’m sorry you had to wait two hours to be seen for a scheduled appointment, as if your doctor’s time was more valuable than yours.

I’m sorry you were treated like a gallbladder or a hip bone or a liver or a vagina. I’m sorry if anyone ever called you a room number (as in “Go put an IV in Room 302.”) I’m sorry your doctor forgot that you’re a whole person with a brain and a heart and a soul and a family.

You deserve to heard, touched with gentle, loving hands, and invited to make informed, autonomous decisions about your own body. You deserve to have your innate self-healing mechanisms empowered and activated by those you trust with your whole health. You deserve to feel heard, nurtured, cherished, and, most of all, LOVED.

Love, presence, tenderness, and healing touch are the most healing gifts we can offer you, and yet, we’re denying you what you need like blood, like oxygen.

You have a right to be upset, because you deserve more than we’re giving you. You have a right to feel held in the warm arms of those to whom you entrust your body, mind and spirit. It is our job to hold dear that privilege.

I’m so sorry, darling. Really, I am. You are why we’re here. Let us appreciate the gift.

I’m Sorry Nurses, Medical Assistants, and Hospital Techs

If you are a non-physician health care provider, I’m sorry for that doctor that treats you as if you’re not fit to scrape gum off her shoe. I’m sorry you feel like nobody appreciates the wisdom you’ve accumulated from years of experience. I’m sorry for the inhumane treatment you may have suffered at the hands of my colleagues, and I’m sorry you don’t feel validated, loved, respected, and cherished for the many times you’ve borne the indignities of your profession because you feel called to serve, and patients need you.

Without you, we couldn’t do what we do, and without your loving touch and healing words, patients would suffer. We appreciate you. I’m sorry if you can’t tell sometimes, but we do. We know things would fall apart without you, and we know you protect our patients and cover our asses more times than we even know.

Thank you for cleaning up our messes, returning the phone calls we should be making ourselves, holding the bedpans, squeezing the patient’s hand as she drifts off into an anesthetic sleep, picking up the instruments we throw on the ground in a huff, wiping the patient’s soiled bum, doling out the pain medicine, hand feeding the applesauce, and most importantly, sitting at the bedside long after we storm in and out in 2 minutes without listening. 

We love you. I’m genuinely sorry, honey. What you do matters. YOU matter. Love matters. And you are the love messengers who pick up where we leave off. We might remove diseased organs or set broken bones, but our patients heal because of what you do. We bow to you and invite you to take equal seats at the healing round table, so we might better serve those who need us.

I’m Sorry, Complementary & Alternative Health Care Practitioners

If you’re an complementary or alternative medicine provider or some other sort of counselor, coach, or healer, I’m sorry so many physicians respond to what they don’t understand by dismissing you or making you wrong. I’m sorry you’ve had your treatment plans changed without the respect of a simple phone call. I’m sorry you’ve gone to all this trouble to build a relationship with your client, only to have some doctor tear it apart with one ignorant and closed-minded comment. I apologize for that doctor who told your client that what you do is a bunch of valueless woo woo hooey not deserving of their hard-earned money.

I’m sorry they don’t teach us much about what you do in medical school, and I’m sorry we’re not motivated to learn more so we can better collaborate. I’m sorry we act like we’re “better” than you and lord our medical degrees over you in a misguided attempt to assuage our own insecurities.

What you do heals. Patients transform. You love. You listen. You spend time laying on hands as we rarely do anymore. It’s no wonder people value what you do, even when insurance companies don’t cover it. Ancient traditions bring great gifts to the healing toolbox we all share. By embracing the scientific method in Western medicine, we’ve made the mistake of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, but you hold the baby. You nurture the baby. And that baby is time, presence, healing touch, and most of all - LOVE.

I’m so very sorry, dear ones. Thank you for what you do. You round out - and often replace (in a good way) - what we docs do, and we are grateful to anyone who transforms illness, sadness, or trauma into vitality, no matter how it happens. After all, the patient is what matters most, right? Don’t we all share a common goal?

Thank you for your healing gifts, and please - join us at the healing round table, where we can all be equal partners in the quest to facilitate the healing journeys of those we serve.

Why Am I Apologizing?

You may think, “But it’s not your fault, Lissa.” And no, it may not be directly my fault, at least not this time. No, maybe I wasn’t the one who never looked up from the computer when you last saw your doctor. Maybe I wasn’t the one who forgot your name, or shoved a prescription for an anti-depressant at you when you were crying without bothering to listen to what triggered the tears. I wasn’t the one who told your patient that Reiki was bullshit, when you were healing her illness.

I may not have been the one who yelled at you in front of the patient when you offered a suggestion you thought might help more than what I had ordered. I may not have thrown that bloody scalpel at you in the OR or squished you like a bug with my words. I may not have tormented you in medical school or mocked you when you cried.

And yet, I am not beyond reproach. I have been guilty of some of these wrongdoings, and my heart is full of remorse.  After embarking upon my own healing journey and releasing much of the post-traumatic stress I suffered on the inside of the health care system, I am now a recovering physician, seeking reform, and I want to encourage a global healing between doctors, patients, and all others in the healing profession.

So please, I know I speak on behalf of hundreds of thousands of physicians when I say, “Please forgive us. We are sorry. And we want things to change.”

Do You Deserve An Apology?

Have you ever felt diminished, hurt, dismissed, or disenfranchised by one of your health care providers? Tell us your story here.

Apologetic,

Lissa Rankin, MD

Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.commotivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.

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Comments

Lissa Rankin's picture

You're welcome Harris

Yes, you're so right- our sole goal should be serving our patients. If they're getting better, we all win. The competitiveness that seems to exist between many in orthodox medicine and those in complementary fields is not only unnecessary but harmful and confusing to our patients. I'm all about the "healing round table." We're all equals and the patient is ultimately in charge...

Hugs
Lissa

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Harris Frank's picture

Thanks!

Dr. Rankin,
Much gratitude for your post. Many of us in the field of Chinese Medicine have experiences such as these. As healers and health care practitioners, what we all really want and need to remember always is to be there in service for our patients. Whats best for them is the highest priority no matter how it comes. Somehow along the way, we've let other priorities in. What you said here, goes a long way to bringing it back to our highest calling.

With gratitude,
Harris S. Frank, L.Ac.

Lissa Rankin's picture

MIchelle, you're precious

Thank you, my love.
Big big big hugs
Lissa

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Michelle Medina's picture

I don't need to tell my story

I don't need to tell my story because you know it already Lissa!! All I can say is that I'm sitting here sobbing and I appreciate your heartfelt apology!!!! I love you and everything you are doing to rectify the situation on your end!!! You are a brilliant Woman and I'm filled with Gratitude to have had a session with you and met you in person!!!! Huge hugs!!

Kat's picture

Donors fund institute for patient care at University of Chicago

Lissa, I thought you would appreciate this good news for Univ. of Chicago!

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/22/us/university-of-chicago-gets-42-milli...

Lissa Rankin's picture

Susan, bless you

You're so welcome. And on behalf of anyone who didn't listen to you and validate what you're trying to do, I'm sorry. You matter. Your message matters. Our collective patients matter. Don't give up. Rally for the cause. We need you.
With love
Lissa

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Susan Hoefer's picture

appology

Dear Lissa,
Thank you for your loving post:) Although you have not been the one bullying, and I not your victim, to here you validate the trauma imbedded in the relationships within the healthcare was healing to me:) I have been a nurse for 20 plus years and have been, I guess you could say, trailblazing holism in my little community for over 10. There have been alot of comments, ridicule, blocks along the path from medicine, administration....rarely from patients. To have support from one person who knows the system, who understands healing and cure, illness and disease, and the importance of both.. well it is inspiring and validating , and just plain kind. Thank you :) it is nice to know somebody understands:)

Eve's picture

Thank you

Holy cow. What a post! I'm still taking it all in, but I'm very touched that you thought to write it, and take responsibility for your own stuff. That's the big life lesson, I think, and it's something I'm always working on too. I'm a medical assistant; fortunately I've almost always been treated respectfully. But this does help ease the embarrassment and humiliation of being "let go" by a new office manager at a practice where I'd been for over 6 years (with glowing reviews) for being "no longer required". (In actuality, I was fired by her for speaking up in a staff meeting, when I questioned her policy on staff absences for those of us with small children: We almost all had small children, and suddenly she decided to make it a rule that we could not stay home if our small children were sick. None of us liked that of course, but she was new and we were scared of her, so no one was going to speak up. I did. I was let go a week later.) What hurt was that none of the doctors I'd worked with spoke up for me. I'd thought they were friends. This was a long time ago, and I've moved on, and I understand now why they didn't. And this post helps to heal my heart. Thank you, Dr Lissa. You are amazing.

Lissa Rankin's picture

You're so welcome

To those who have expressed appreciation, thank you- and you're welcome!
Hugs and love to all of you
Lissa

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Anna 's picture

Aprops

I was ready to shoot my physician but now perhaps I'll save my bullets for the true Evil Thing in my life: my lawyer( s)
Just kidding. Please don't sue me for making threats of violence. Instead ask yourself: What is there about my behavior that incites her to such thoughts?

Ereshkigal's picture

Thank You!

On behalf of patients everywhere who have been abused, ignored, and just plain disrespected, thank you.

On behalf of my fellow CAM practitioners who have lost clients, been threatened with unwarranted legal action, sanctioned, or dissed in any way, thank you.

On behalf of my brother and all other medical technicians, nurses, and other AMA approved medical professionals who have been treated like slaves, children, or imbeciles by physicians & surgeons, thank you.

I am printing this and framing it to hang in my bathroom. The next time I have an appointment with a physician and come home feeling less than satisfied, it will help me to let go of my anger and forgive the person who failed to recognize my personhood.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Heidi's picture

Thank you for your courage

Thank you for your responsibility. As a RN, I know that oftentimes the "system" can suck the compassion right out of any well-meaning treating provider- MD or tech or therapist- but yet I still feel I am entitled to be a patient when it is my turn. By that I mean that I expect my humanity to be acknowledged, not just my symptoms or the way I present. It is ok to expect that and I think that patients everywhere need to have the courage to express this and if needed change providers. Health needs are too important to entrust to anyone who fails to recognize a patient as a whole person.

Isabel's picture

An idea!

I imagine these words printed in a poster hanging in every medicine school, waiting room, every hospital, every clinic around the world! It´s so powerful!!!

Healing words indeed!!
Isabel

littlephoenix's picture

Thank you

Thanks for posting this, Dr. Lissa. I am still dealing with the ongoing fallout from the traumatic 'treatment' given to me for depression at age 12 (including a psychiatrist who said I couldn't have Kleenex until I stopped crying...I was only 12, and I was scared!)

But I want to *thank* my current therapist. She is a wonderful psychologist, and she is one of the few people I can usually trust. She truly wants to know when she makes a mistake so she can learn from me and find a better way of working with me.

Terry's picture

Apology

I want to THANK my current PCP, my pulmonary specialist and her techs, my arthritic knee dude, my vision specialist, my mental health prescriber & talk therapist, their office assistants, the techs who take my blood, and yearly squish my boobs. I have always been treated with respect, courtesy and dignity. And I always try to remember to thank them for their kindness in handling this or that or whatever it was that they did for mew.

Maureen Balaam MFT's picture

apology

Thank you Dr Lissa for the courage to apologize to all people. I can relate to many times I felt ignored, dismissed, belittled by MD's or their assistants. I knew that there was no way I was getting good healthcare without listening, honoring, respecting being part of the treatment.

Luckily, I do remember several doctors and PA's who did not fit that profile and went out of their way to see me as a human and include me.

As a psychotherapist, I have had the same experience when attempting to work with doctors - phone calls not returned, no understanding of how we might work together for the good of the client. In fact, I have tried many times to reach out for this kind of collaboration and been met with silence.

AND I know as a health provider that there are times when I am not able to provide what I seek - my phone does not work, my time is tied up, I have to leave town, my day is stressed and I cannot quite be with people the way I would like to be.

It seems to me that if there could be some good connections between us - that we would be able to navigate the human parts of our interactions much better.

I like the Hawaiian Huna message to forgive in ourselves what we see in others -that by doing that, others are healed and we are more free.

Love and Blessings to All

MkM's picture

your sincerety

I've always known how much pressure you've been under as a physician.
As I said the last time I went to the doctor's office: "I'm only here because it is the only way to talk to you, but I feel great." My female doctor has been incredible and she knows that I take good care of myself. We are solely responsible for our own health and well-being, not our doctors. We have used doctors as a crutch, an excuse, and go running to them for the smallest disorder, malady, or aches and pains.
Thanks for your apology, but many people have taken you for granted.
Sincerely, MkM

Sarah E. Brown's picture

This is so beautiful,

This is so beautiful, heartfelt and generous. Thank you for writing it, Dr. Rankin!

Isabel's picture

Bless you Dr. Lissa

This is so healing to read!!! I have a friend in the Virgin Islands right now being radiated after a long ordeal suffering of negect from several docotrs, until he finally got an MRI where a tumor in his spine and other areas of the body showed up!! He´s being hospitalized for two days now and has had two sessions of radiation. Right now he´s embarking in a plane to Puerto Rico to have surgery and remove the big tumor, but the confusion around him is grand (insurace people, doctors, etc)
I´ve been able to contact him through e-mail and his cel phone (I live in Cuernavaca, south of Mexico city) and I just sent him the "I´m sorry patiens" to him.
Those are healing word every person in the healing business need to hear.

On behave of him, Buddy Blackwelder, thank you Dr. Lissa. Blessings.
Isabel

Carz's picture

Lissa, I have been treated

Lissa, I have been treated badly in the past by doctors, from the one who examined my injured ankle and missed the 10cm reconstruction scar to the one who wanted to run blood tests to find a physiological cause for my depression (as if being raped repeatedly by my then husband wasn't enough). But I want to talk about my current General Practitioner, or GP (as family doctors are known in Australia).

My GP is an amazing woman. She saw me initially at the request of a psychologist I had an appointment with (whom I hadn't met at that stage. Another wonder of the medical world) to write a referral for psychological treatment. It turned out the GP was one of the doctors at the practice I was already attending. I wasn't comfortable enough with my then GP to approach him for the referral. Anyway, my current GP cleared an appointment for me and wrote the referral. Her care and kindness in the face of the hell I was living in was amazing. She agreed to taking over as my GP and I have been seeing her ever since.

This amazing woman cares for all of me. She takes the time to make sure that all my health needs are being me, to make me as comfortable as possible with everything she is doing, and is conscious of my need for privacy regarding my experiences, always asking before she puts anything particularly sensitive in my file. Today I saw her for a new referral to my psychologist, because of a return of PTSD symptoms after being sexually harassed by a disabled client at the work placement I am doing for my degree. She offered to make a note of it in my file, in case I decide at any point to take the matter further. At every point she asks rather than assumes, listens instead of talking, and takes my feelings into account when developing treatment plans. I feel truly blessed to have her as my doctor.

So to Dr N, and all the others like her, I want to give thanks. Thanks for remembering your own humanity as well as that of those you work with to improve their health and well being. When you reveal that humanity people see you as a person first, then a doctor. And that makes life better for all of us.

Carz

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