March 4, 2009

Heart, then Head

This afternoon, I visited a dermatologist for treatment of an ongoing, though minor and isolated, problem. The assistant who took me into the examining room opened my file and asked why I was there. This information had been given when I made the appointment, but I understood if it had not found its way into my medical file. After I explained that, despite earlier treatment by this doctor, the problem had not cleared, the assistant then, while looking at my fairly thin medical file, asked me where the problem was, and how long I have had it. I grew concerned that this information was not recorded in the pages on which she was looking, answered the questions, but pointed out that this should all be in my file. The assistant then asked me how the doctor treated it previously. At this point, I grew agitated and concerned, and stated that that information should definitely be in my file. She then proceeded to announce that the doctor treated the condition differently than he, in fact, had! When I corrected her, she admitted that she could not read the doctor's handwriting.

What if the assistant had introduced herself, perhaps explained that she was a medical student and interested in my care, explained that she found the doctor's notes difficult to decipher, and then proceeded to ask me the very same questions? What if she had explained her intent prior to seeking knowledge? If she had communicated authentically? A relationship based on meaning and mutual understanding would have been established, I would have understand the context of the questions, and the knowledge gleaned would have been much more useful for her purposes.

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