Saturday, April 4, 2009

Soiling the white coat

Doctors used to demand almost universal trust and authority. Over time, people decided that they wanted more power, more choices, and more oversight. Part of this may be due to the fact that in a public system, everyone is paying for the health care system and therefore everyone feels like they should have a say. Personally, I think that people have just realized how human and how fallible doctors are and decided that unflinching trust is foolish. Trust is earned.

Some older physicians may resent this, but a few bad apples in the crop can spoil faith in the tree. Everyday I’m amazed by the flurry of activity, enthusiasm, and diligence of my colleagues. At the same time, I find myself questioning the attitudes, professionalism, and motivations of others among my peers.

Take my community health course, for instance. Different health-related agencies around the city open up their doors to medical students every year. These are not physician-run agencies. They invite us to participate because they believe it’s important for us as future doctors to understand their role in health. So they give us their knowledge, their facilities, and their time. Sometimes, these visits seem uninspiring, boring, or even useless; but we need to respect the effort that these agencies have made on our behalf.

When someone complains to the course coordinator that an activity that a particular agency has asked us to perform is too much work, and if that complaint is then taken in earnest from the coordinator to the agency, how does that reflect on our attitudes as students? Isn’t it just a little ungrateful?

For Kushima’s community visit, the students assigned to his particular agency regularly carpool. Unsurprisingly, your friendly neighbourhood Sandoval skipped the visit altogether. Meanwhile, the drivers of the carpool decided to stop along the way for a proper sit-down lunch. The result was the entire troupe of students arriving an hour late at the agency.

Outside the agency building, the agency contact was waiting expectantly. “Wow it must be tough for you guys this year. I don’t remember students in previous years being so rushed.”

Irresponsible. Unprofessional. This kind of behaviour erodes the public confidence and goodwill of our inter-professional colleagues. This kind of attitude tarnishes respect for the white coat.


Mello said...

Oh dear, how upsetting!....I must say I am quite shocked at how irresponsible that is. It almost angers me to think that the preceptor was, in all good intentions, waiting for them, perhaps even worried about them while they take their sweet time having lunch. I hope that it wasn't everybody's idea but simply one or two people influencing the group...groupthink much? (ha...Dante).
Hopefully the group felt bad and learned their lesson when they saw the preceptor waiting...otherwise, maybe it would be a good idea for Kushima to put his foot down at the next visittt >.< said...

This is my bestest friend. He is a good man. Indeed he is.

t e d said...

lmao, before i started reading the article, i took the title too literally... i thought, o man finally, some med student must have freaked out at some scary patients.. meh

Michael said...

Not going to defend Kushima's group (actually being an hour late like that is grounds for a complaint to Ian Johnson, I'd think), but I think the whole respect thing is also true in reverse.

For example, in our group (4 people total), for our last visit, watched our organization play music DVDs for an hour. Seriously, we sat in the back, and watched old seniors listen to music. FOR A FUCKING HOUR. We're 4 medical students, all of us with bachelors, one of us with a Master's too. This is the best use of our time and knowledge?! For our 2nd last visit, we marked multiple-choice quizzes on work safety for their new employees. For our first visit, we waited from 4pm-5pm in a room because they had a 'meeting' and promptly at 5pm, the preceptor came and said "okay, if there's nothing else, you guys can go now" even though she told us to wait till after the meeting.

Now, we're never late, always cordial and I think we exemplify the 'keen, professional' medical students that we should all act like. But the fact is, privately, we all agree that our 'community experience' is a waste of time and has negatively impacted our perception of these 'inter-professional colleagues'.

But having said that, we realize we can't extrapolate to all community health organizations based on one bad experience and I think other professionals know this too.

But you're right, however, that the public WILL stereotype everyone based on a few bad apples (happens to lawyers, cops, etc. as well), but that's just human nature, unfortunately and... with the public's average IQ being 110 at best, you can't expect that to change anytime soon.