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A Calmer You, by Sonal Kalra: Doctors, too, have a life

It’s time to say Happy Diwali to your doctor. Check out how we can do that.

columns Updated: Oct 14, 2017 18:45 IST
Sonal Kalra
Sonal Kalra
Hindustan Times
Sonal Kalra,A Calmer You,Doctor stress
This Diwali, let’s give a gift to our doctors by not being the following kind of patients, shall we?

I got a scolding. The biggest one since school days. By doctors. Itni daant padi, by God, after last week’s column on ‘patients running out of patience’. It felt as if 5 saal ki MBBS studies ki saari bhadaas mujhe pe hi nikaal di. Sorry docs, I stand duly chastised. And in the good interest of the future of my health, I have decided to write this week on your side of the story.

There’s no denying that you go through a lot. The struggle that starts from slogging days and nights to crack the medical entrance exam just doesn’t end, despite all the promises ki ek baar doctor ban jao, phir life set hai. Haina? At a point when friends and classmates have ‘settled down’ with a kid or two running about the house, you are still studying away to glory to get through the PG specialisation of your choice. When you finally start practicing, there’s a perception to deal with that you’ve landed a money-minting career, without much thought to the toll this profession takes on your life. Ab toh maine sahi kaha nah?

So here’s what we’ll do. I spoke to a lot of doctor friends to know about things patients do that annoy them the most. This Diwali, let’s give a gift to our doctors by not being the following kind of patients, shall we?

1. Patients who Google symptoms: Well, this seems to be the biggest peeve of the doctor in our life. In the name of being informed, we often read up too much on the net about our bimari. And of course, Google baba helps us no end by telling us that our symptoms match with 2,000 different kinds of diseases. We go to the doctor armed with all this (mis)information and flaunt it without realising one simple fact. They are the domain experts and we are not. The chances of healing are far more when we trust ourselves into the hands of the expert. This does not, however, mean that we don’t have a right to know from the doctor about what’s ailing us. But let us not turn that into a tussle to indicate that Internet knows better than the doctor. You wouldn’t be sitting with the latter in the first place, if it did, right?

2. Patients with ‘contacts’: We all are guilty of this at some level but for a doctor, sifaarishi patients are a big annoyance. A lot of doctors I spoke to said that while they’d like to prioritise patients on the basis of their state of health or their prior appointment, it’s the patients with contacts who break the queue and demand to be seen first. ‘Patients get calls made from seniors doctors. We can’t disregard them,’ says a young doctor, explaining how he or his staff has to then bear the brunt of the other patients who have been waiting for long for their turn to come.

3. Negligence hunters: You know, it’s a tricky one to write about. Because in reality, there are endless documented cases of massive negligence on the part of healthcare professionals that have led even to fatalities. I’m not referring to those here. But a lot of doctors also have a grudge that these days, crying out ‘negligence’ even in cases where the doctor did his or her best has become common. ‘If the caretakers of a patient are unduly aggressive from the beginning of treatment, it puts the doctor under tremendous stress. Always being scared that we’d be blamed for negligence doesn’t help, because that keeps us from taking those risks in the treatment that are sometimes necessary. We are not magicians,’ wrote a doctor from Ludhiana. ‘Doctors can’t get away from taking responsibility if something happens to a patient because of their line of treatment.

A negligence of theirs can cost us our lives. It’s not a reversible damage,’ says a friend who’s battling a case against a prominent hospital. I really don’t know what stand to take in this debate, because both sides have valid arguments. What do you think?

4. ‘Iski bhi fees?’ patients: I have a smile on my face while writing this because recently, I witnessed this conversation at a neighborhood nursing home.

Patient’s relative (PR): Yeh 1,200 kis cheez ke?
Cashier: Duty doctor’s visit.
PR: But the patient is admitted here. Doctor toh dekhne aayega hi?
Cashier:Yeah but the doctor gave advice.
PR: Advice dene ki alag se fees lagegi?

I agree that healthcare is terribly expensive, and it pinches the pocket to pay high consultation fees. But we also encounter patients who, given a choice, wouldn’t want to pay anything. ‘“Doctor bane kis liye ho? For doing good deeds or fleecing us?” they say,’ writes a cardiologist from Delhi. ‘I have a rather well-off patient who invariably calls up citing ‘side effects’ of medicines prescribed in the previous meeting, so that he doesn’t have to pay consultation fee for a new visit. There are also people who book one appointment and one by one show different family members, and then fight with the receptionist that they should be charged consultation fee for only one,’ he adds. I asked Chaddha ji for his views. ‘Mein toh khud karta hoon yeh. Toh kya ho gaya dono bachchon aur unki mummy ko bhi saath mein dikha liya toh? Kaunsa doctor ki jeb se kuchh jaata hai, advice hi toh deni hai, thodi free de de,’ he says.

Sorry, doctor! Happy Diwali

Sonal Kalra has decided to take admission in MBBS next year, just like Munna Bhai. She will only treat herself, for free. Charity begins at home. Mail her at, Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra.

First Published: Oct 14, 2017 18:40 IST