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Why Your Doctor Matters

Shannon Harvey

I’ve got a dilemma and have to make a very important health related decision. I’m expecting my second child to arrive any day now. I have a wonderful doctor, but I’ve just been told he has to unexpectedly go away next week for five days. He’s suggested that if my baby hasn’t come by next Tuesday, in order to ensure he will be there for the baby’s birth, we artificially induce labour before he goes away. The decision I have to make (if baby doesn’t come in the next five days) is whether letting things take their own course is more important to me than having the doctor I know and trust with me during the labour.  

Needless to say, the research I’ve been doing lately about the importance of the doctor-patient relationship is very much on my mind today. Through their words, attitudes, and behaviours, our healthcare providers can communicate critical information that can have a profound impact on our health – for better or for worse. When we see a doctor, nurse, or other health professional, a special and unique interaction takes place. For example, one study of patients with hypertension found a correlation between empathetic nurses and improved symptoms and quality of life. Another study demonstrated that doctors are far more effective at treating various symptoms such as cough, sore throat, tiredness, abdominal pain, and muscular pain if consultations are conducted in a positive rather than a negative manner. In fact, a review of research studies about the effectiveness of empathy in general medical practice found it is of “unquestionable importance.” I’ve also written recently about the power of words when it comes to health and how, over the last decade, negative suggestion has been shown to cause people to experience negative symptoms in treatments for everything from headache, to multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease and depression.  

With my history of having been diagnosed with various autoimmune diseases over the years (first lupus, then Sjrogen’s disease, then fibromyalgia) as well as having had a complicated labour with my first child, I spent a great deal of time finding the right healthcare team for this pregnancy. I’ve carefully researched the hospital and over the last nine months I’ve come to know and trust my doctor. As you can imagine, I feel that having him with me during the upcoming labour is important. He has, of course, put into place a plan for if I go into labour while he’s away and I’ll be attended to by a trusted colleague of his, but not knowing this person is of some concern.  

I’m not alone in feeling strongly that getting the care I need is about more than simply seeking expertise and technical competence. In 2013 Dignity Health in the US conducted a nation-wide survey and found that 87 percent of Americans feel that kind treatment by a physician is more important than other key considerations in choosing a healthcare provider, including average wait time before appointments, distance from home, and the cost of care. In fact, 72 percent of Americans would be willing to pay more for a physician who emphasised kindness when treating patients.  

Being the thorough journalist that I am, naturally I’m hitting the research databases to take a look at the other side of this dilemma and checking out all the pros and cons related to induction of labour. With some luck, this little bubba is going to come along on their own in the next few days and I won’t have to decide. In the meantime, I’ll be going for some lovely long walks, eating some spicy food and have booked in for a massage. If you have any other anecdotal tips and tricks to encourage this little one along, they are most welcome in the comments below.

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