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When Doctors Have to See Other Doctors


Dr. Melissa Young talks about the moral dilemma that doctors face when they have to receive care, perhaps from someone they know.

So where do physicians go for their own healthcare?  This is of course assuming that a) they don't ignore their symptoms, and b) they don't try to treat themselves.  We have a bad habit of working through pain and fever and other discomfort because we feel we don't have the time to take care of ourselves. We also tend to minimize the severity of our illnesses because we are too busy taking care of other people.

But back to the original question.  When I was pregnant, I saw an obstetrician whose office was across the street from the hospital where I worked.  It was convenient and I figured it made sense.  I wanted to delivery at the same hospital and my OB worked there.  During my prenatal visits, though, I had to see not just "my" OB, but her associates as well because you never knew who would be on call when I delivered.  Turns out she happened to be on call when I went into labor. 

After I came back from maternity leave, I would from time to time run into my OB and her partners when I did rounds at the hospital.  I know it's ridiculous, but it felt weird.  Seeing them as colleagues after they had examined me.  I did (and still do) continue to see the same physician because I like her, and she delivered both my kids. 

Years ago, I had a close friend who had a drug problem.  I had called the local crisis center and tried to get him help.  They suggested, for my sake, that he get help at a center a little further away, where people didn't know me and where his behavior would not be a reflection on me. If a physician had a substance abuse or psychological problem, wouldn't it also be prudent to seek help a little further from the home turf?

More recently, I had some medical issues.  Nothing serious, but a few things in need of minor procedures.  I had initially planned on just going to a local physician - I know she's good and she's relatively close by.  My primary-care physician sent me to a specialist 40 minutes away.  At first, I thought that was too much of a hassle.  Then I decided, maybe that is better.  She will see me only as another patient.  Not as a physician, not as a colleague, not as a friend.  I will not have to make small talk with her in the physician lounge the next day.  She won't accidentally say something in front of another colleague while we do rounds. 

I certainly see the advantage of having a friend or family member see us for certain things, but there are some circumstances where it may be uncomfortable, for both patient and physician.

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