Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Patient Trust

Nanos Research reports that physicians are the most trusted professionals by Canadians. 77% of respondents considered medical doctors' standards of ethics and honesty to be "high" or "very high". These results aren't terribly surprising considering physicians know they must carry themselves in a manner that elicits trust. After all, they ask you very personal questions, make you to strip naked for examinations, and occasionally anaesthetise you before cutting you open and placing instruments inside your body. If they didn't have your trust, they would be unemployed.

What does constantly surprise me is how much trust patients have in me, a medical student. When I first started seeing patients last year, I assumed most of them would be unwilling to see me and tell me that they came in to talk to an actual doctor. This never happened, not once, patients were more than happy to talk to me. In fact, most of them were happy to play a part in training the next generation of physicians (which I and all my classmates are of course grateful for). Of course, in the beginning all I did was perform a medical interview, but still, these patients were willing to answer personal questions asked by a complete stranger with less than two months of training.

Now in second year, I have a better understanding of how to perform a medical interview and several clinical exams (read: "I can actually do stuff"); yet, this year has been even more astonishing than the last. A few months ago, a family allowed me to examine their seven day old daughter. They let me place a giant microphone to her chest (also called a stethoscope), shine a bright light into her eyes (looking for the red reflex), palpate her head (feeling for fontanelles), and feel her abdomen for any abnormalities. These parents didn't know me, but because I'm a physician (in training) they trusted me with their new child.

That's a lot of responsibility. I better go study...

No comments: