Doctors and Their Relationships with Patients (Joel Merenstein)
Over the years I have written this blog, I have posted comparisons of medical clinicians and public school teachers. The substantial differences between the two helping professions (e.g., doctors work one-on-one, teachers in groups; doctors’ decisions can have immediate consequences for life and death, much less so for teachers; differences in salaries; social status, etc.) seemingly made comparisons far-fetched. What I focused on, however, was the centrality of the relationship between teacher and student, doctor and patient, as the core of both helping professions, one for learning in school and the other maintaining good health for patients (see here and here).
In this post and others to come, I offer examples of such a relationship between doctor and patient that captures the depth, breadth, and importance of that relationship to both clinician and patient. Such accounts are uncommon in medical literature.
Joel Merenstein retired in 2005 from his family medicine practice in Pittsburgh (PA). He wrote this article for The Journal of Family Practice in 2010. He and two colleagues have recently published essays about family practice in The Human Side of Medicine.*
Being in practice for 42 years was like running a marathon. Things seem easy and pleasant at first, but then as time goes by, you hit the “wall” and you feel like you can’t go on. “It’s just too hard,” you think. And you wonder: “What am I doing here?”
In an actual marathon, you hit that wall somewhere around the 20-mile mark. (At least that’s what my son tells me.) But in my family medicine practice, I hit the wall at the 10-year mark.
If, like me, you decide not to quit, the endorphins kick in. You feel a high and know you could go on like this forever. You wonder to yourself: “Can life really be this good?”