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Physicians are People Too


A physician dispels common misconceptions about the profession.

"So you grocery shop, too? Like a normal person?"

That was an actual question I got from a patient I ran into at the supermarket. It made me think about some of the myths there must be about physicians. I'd like to dispel a few.

Physicians have "people" do things for them

Granted, there are wealthy physicians who have help at home and au pairs to take care of the kids, but most of us have to do our grocery shopping just like everybody else.  We also have to do our own laundry, cook dinner for the family, and schlep the kids to whatever extracurricular they've got going on. Which brings me to myth number two.

Physicians just do "doctor" stuff

The reality is we have many roles to play.  Yes, much of our waking hours revolve around work - seeing patients, making phone calls, wrangling with insurance providers, etc. But, we are also parents to young children, children to aging parents, homeowners, teachers for residents and medical students, and members of communities. While we try very hard to do what we can for our patients, sometimes we need to leave the doctoring behind and go to a parent-teacher conference, take the dog out, or take mom to her doctor. 

It must be nice to have a physician as a family member/friend/neighbor

Sure, it's good to have doctor mom around to put on a splint when you fall off your bike and think you've broken your finger.  But unless mom is a hand surgeon or an orthopedist, you're going to bet she's taking you to see someone who is.  And while your cousin the doctor may be a good source of information about pneumonia, he can't just treat you over the phone, you need someone to examine you. 

Doctors are healthy people

First of all, we're human. We get sick. Just like everybody else. And even though we know all the healthy things we're supposed to do, not all of us do them.  How often do I tell patients that they need to get more sleep?  Don't ask many how much I get because it depends on whether I'm on call or not, and whether I'm stressing over my daughter's upcoming parent-teacher conference.  The worst part is, even though we tell you to take it easy when you're sick or don't feel well, we are the last people to do that.  Which brings me to the last myth on my list.

Doctors know how to take care of themselves when they are sick

Okay, so technically, this is true. We know how. We just often don't. This ridiculous sense of duty makes us go to work even when we are so dizzy we can barely stand. Up all night throwing up? I won't eat breakfast. I'll take some Zofran. I'll be fine. My patients need me. So long as we're not contagious, we will be in the office. Had major surgery? Did the surgeon say no work for 8 weeks? Preposterous! I'll be there in two. I just won't lift stuff. I know a woman physician who gave birth and was back and doing ICU rounds the next day. Physician, heal thyself? I say "nay, nay."

So yes, I do my own grocery shopping "like a normal person." And, I have parent-teacher conferences to attend next week. And I will not get my requisite 8-9 hours of sleep. For the record, I did get my flu shot, so hopefully, I won't have to go to work sick any time soon.

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