Health: A love letter to the patient-doctor relationship

During the month of Valentine’s Day, many of us think about our most significant relationships. Young couples think about grand and romantic ways they’ll express their passion; married couples think about the money they’ll save by dining at home.

But the relationships that are more often taken for granted are those you share with your physicians, and of course, the most significant of these is your relationship with your family doctor — a long term relationship that’s important not only for your heart, but every other organ of your body and your wellbeing as a whole.

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It is my relationships with individual patients that originally drew me to family practice. The practice of medicine can become cold and clinical without the emphasis on the human connection. Nothing can match the potential depth and breadth of the patient-family doctor relationship.

As physicians, we must earn our patients’ confidence — to trust us to keep private their medical history, their deepest secrets and their greatest values and to have the faith that we will be their advocates and do our best for them.

In exchange, we are privileged with the sharing of our patients’ personal stories — the good and bad things they may have done, the great and awful things they have lived through and how they make sense of it all.

Over the years, we become a part of our patients’ stories. Sometimes, life can be overwhelming and each of us could lose our sense of control. When we feel helpless, we feel anxious. When we feel hopeless, we feel depressed.

When needed, physicians can help shape patients’ stories with more positive, empowering perspectives. Though patients may present a number of problems, I encourage them to verbalize and visualize their goals.

One of the greatest gifts I can give to patients who see themselves as hapless victims of bad luck, relationships and health is the transforming perspective that they can be agents of positive change in their own lives.

Though we may not have chosen the canvas of our lives nor the colours on our palette, we can choose how we see this life and what we will create with it.

On Feb. 16 at 7 p.m., I’ll be speaking at the Metrotown branch of the Burnaby Public Library on “The Patient-Doctor Relationship: making the most of the every medical visit.” I’ll offer some tips on improving communication and working together to achieve your personal goals. I’ll cover the key information you should know about medications and other treatments and the key screening tests we need at different stages of our lives. For more information, phone the Metrotown branch at 604-436-5400 or register online at bpl.bc.ca/events.

Davidicus Wong is a family physician and his Healthwise columns appear regularly in this paper. For more on achieving your positive potential in health, see his website at davidicuswong.wordpress.com.

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