Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

"Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready." - Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

Thursday, May 18, 2017

My VA Doctor Is Leaving And I Will Miss Her


Doctors come and doctors go in the world of the Veterans Administration. But frankly, I'm sad to see my recent doctor go. And since I told her that I was going to write a post to thank her for all that she has done for me, and she only asked that I withhold her name, I'm not going to mention her name in this article. At least not now while she is still at the VA.

But frankly, while I've written other articles about nurses who have preformed their jobs above and beyond the norm of what's out there, I think the VA should know who their better doctors are. Yes, in the same way that they should know who their worse doctors are.

Since starting my healthcare at the VA back in 1995, I have had at least a dozen doctors as my primary physicians. As for my urologists and other specialized medicine doctors, I lost count years ago.

Yes, I've been seen by a lot of doctors at the VA. I've seen a lot come and go. And while there have been way too many for me to remember them all, sadly the bad one's are the doctors that I've found myself and others talking about. Yes, at least talked about more than the good ones. Yes, sadly that's the case.
I've only asked to replace one doctor in the last 20 plus years. I remember how he walked into the examining room that I sat in and never looked at me. He went right to his computer and worked there for almost 15 minutes before telling me that he reordered my medication and would see me in 6 months. Never looking at me, even after he stood up and said, "Thank you," as he walked out.

While he was an extreme, a number of the doctors at the VA have behaved in similar ways. Maybe that's why a lot of Vets feel the VA is just a sort of production line? Production line medicine where you're just a number in their computer system.

That's probably the reason that I was sorry to hear that my doctor at the VA Clinic in Modesto California, had retired. He was the doctor that I'd seen the longest of everyone. He was as professional as can be expected, but he was also friendly and personable. And to me, that made him a great doctor.

Someone reading this is going to write to say that he or she knows a grouchy curmudgeon who is a wonderful doctor. And really, that's fine. I'm not saying that grouchy doctors, doctors who are very friendly, aren't good doctors. But for me, for what I like, for my taste, I see don't like going to see a doctor or going to a hospital, so when I get there I like courteous neighborly receptionists, a friendly staff, and a doctor that is interested in what ails me.

I've had the "all business, take a number, sit down, go here, you're time is up, see you in six months" type of doctor's visit. And friends, I don't like it. No, like most of us, I really don't like it. Call me old fashion, but I like the doctor who at least can give the appearance of caring.

After I blew my back out and went to vocational rehabilitation, I returned to college to obtain a degree in inspection technology. While training to be a welding inspector, during a practical examine, my instructor failed me even after I breezed through the process that I needed to preform for my certifications. When I asked my instructor why I failed? He responded that I would be a better inspector if I included "the magic." And yes, I learned a great lesson that day.

Yes, it was about "the magic". In other words, the process, the show, the ability to demonstrate why I have the credentials that I do, the reason that someone has hired me, the ability to show a client that I give a shit about what I'm inspecting, the thing that people want to see no matter whether it's calling in an inspector, going to a barber, or going to a doctor. People want the magic.

My old doctor who retired from the VA in Modesto understood giving a patient the magic. And yes, my doctor who is now leaving understands the same. And yes, like the doctor who retired, my doctor who I will certainly miss gives the one the magic. It comes naturally with her caring personality.

Within this last year, this doctor has taken a hard look at the medications that I take. And for her, the status quo was not good enough and she changed my medications and adjusted my routine on taking certain meds. And in doing so, my treatment plan has been changed for the better. Yes, because of her, I feel better.

She had me make a followup appointment to go over the changes, looking for any adverse reactions, weighing the benefits of the changes, and taking a look if any other changes were needed. All with feedback from me.

After our last followup, I told my wife how impressed I was with her care and concern. Her dedication and extra effort. I also told my wife about how she was leaving the VA.

Even though I know the odds are against her being my doctor again, I hope she returns to the VA one day. I know real well that the VA and other Veterans will benefit greatly from her being a part of the VA healthcare system. We have too many doctors who appear cold and uncaring, or tell Vets how limited they are. We need doctors that take the extra time. We need doctor's who understand that a great bedside manner combined with a positive attitude inspires patients to have more confidence in them and the VA in general.

Advice, reassurance, a positive attitude, and real support from a doctor goes a long way when it comes with dealing with patients. Especially with a patient who is reciprocal by being honest and forthright. A patient with a positive attitude who is willing to trust their doctor. Yes, a patient that actually wants to follow his or her treatment plan. A patient who doesn't walk out saying, "I don't care what the Doc wants me to do."

And sadly, I've known a few who were that way. They didn't like their doctor, or they felt their doctor didn't understand what they were going through, so they opt to being their own doctors. In almost every situation, a patient does more harm than good acting in that way. And the truly sad part about that is, it could probably avoided with a little communication.

To me, as in marriage, communication with one's doctor is vital to making life better. In a doctor–patient relationship it's great to know that your doctor cares. The relationship between a doctor and a patient in central to the practice of healthcare. In fact, it is said to be essential for the delivery of high-quality health care. And yes, even more than that, the doctor–patient relationship forms one of the foundations of contemporary medical ethics.

For a patient, at least for me, finding a doctor who is empathetic, sincere, open to options, someone who listens and is engaged, is a big deal. This doctor has been the first in a great number of years who had actually asked me probing questions to help adjust my medications so that I can get the highest benefit from what I'm taking. Not just there to issue refills and send me on my way, but really help me. Imagine that.

People have called me all sorts of things. And yes, I can assure you that some of those things have never passed for blessings. But if there is one thing that no one will ever be able to call me, well that's "ungrateful."

And this post, well this is post is me saying, "Thank you, Doc!" 

It's my way of saying that I can't thank you enough. And yes, that I will surely miss you. Yes, you've been that great a doctor. You are that caring. You are not what we have many of at the VA. And yes, because of who you are, you will be missed.

As for those in her future who will be blessed enough to have her as their doctor, I remind you to be grateful. She is not someone who will shove you out the door when your time is up, or say things just to pacify you. She will be who she is. She is kind yet no non-sense. She is an old fashion caring physician who will talk to you straight, and not beat about the bush. She will certainly find out if you're sincere about you working your wellness program. And yes, she will help you fight what's ailing you because she has the ability to understand what you are going through.

The fact is, in your efforts to get well, she will give you the advice and knowledge you need. All as professional as the day is long. All while caring about your medical needs.

Yes, you need to be honest with her and she in return gives you what you need to get well. No, not as some paternal figure. But instead, as an ally in your fight to achieve what you need to be healthier than before you walked into her office. Some call this collaboration by this name or that, but I like to think of it as an alliance that benefits both you the patient and her the doctor.

You benefit from her wisdom, experience, education, and interest in seeing you well. She benefits because you didn't withhold any information, and that makes her job easier. For me. my not withholding what she needed to know gave her all of the variables she needed to find the right medication and create the right treatment plan for me. Yes, communication and information benefits both you and her.

So be grateful that she's your doctor. Be grateful that you have found a doctor that cares. Because frankly, you will gain immensely from her being your treating physician. She is definitely someone with the knowledge and expertise a patient needs. With a willingness to be honest with her, having her as your doctor is having a great ally indeed.

And yes, that's just the way I see things.

Tom Correa  





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