I just read “Where Do We Go to Complain?” by Marcey Gillespie, MD. (EMN 2009;31:4.) My overwhelming response to this humorous and well-crafted editorial is, “Marcey, get over it!” Yes, I agree, patients can be demanding, annoying, sexist, obscene, irresponsible, condescending, loud, and downright rude. Sounds like the human race to me. (Do any of us demonstrate some of these “qualities” when we deal with salespeople, civil servants, our own families, or ED staff?)
When we chose to become physicians, we chose to be servants, and well-paid servants, at that. As such, we have the incredible privilege of interacting with and caring for dozens of strangers each time we work. Hopefully, as Dr. Gillespie indicated, we find common ground with them and try to make a difference in their lives. I would wager that Dr. Gillespie and all of us receive more thanks than complaints. Although her code of conduct is a great wish list, it's not likely to be met in any ED. And, yet, most of us love what we do.
When we whine (and I suspect we all do), let's do it in private. Would you like this article to fall into the hands of your “nice” patients, or any patients, for that matter? Let's use this publication to teach and encourage one another and celebrate our great specialty.
Mary Ward, MD
Dr. Gillespie responds: If we cannot blow off steam in a specialty forum, when and where can we? Most of my colleagues gave an arm pump when they read my article and agreed with all of it, but none would have written it. Some shook their heads, agreeing and laughing. I am the one in my group most known for speaking my mind. I am giving voice to frustrations that we all experience from time to time. If I felt these frustrations all the time, I would retire. Most of the time, I truly enjoy patient interactions because they are a continual challenge in psychology, empathy, kindness, and of course delightful medical conundrums, puzzles we emergency physicians get to solve every day.
I would be bored to death as a dermatologist, but certainly would be more financially secure. I chose emergency medicine, and I do not regret it. It is the best and most enjoyable job I have ever had, and I came to medicine somewhat late in life.
But I do believe we are at the pointy end of the knife during most of our shifts and that the ED staff deserve more support from our colleagues, administrations, and communities. Thanks for writing to EMN and giving us your viewpoint.