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Medical doctor

Society puts a lot of responsibility of them and the pressure of living up to that responsibility in Nigeria without relevant equipment, medical supplies, adequate compensation and the hostility of the public can take a toll. And it does take a toll.

I understand this. Like I have always stated, #NigeriaHealthcareWorkers do the most with the little they are given. I have shared my stories and many others have too. We are highly competent to do the work we have to do despite the challenges.

I understand this. Like I have always stated, #NigeriaHealthcareWorkers do the most with the little they are given. I have shared my stories and many others have too. We are highly competent to do the work we have to do despite the challenges.

Where the issue lies with most people is the relationship or connection with people. Dear Doctor, while I understand your challenges with dealing with saving lives every day and the stress it puts on your mental health, you still have to remember that you are dealing with people and not machines.

People who are ill or taking care of loved ones who are ill are at the most vulnerable time in their lives. They are anxious, in pain, sad, angry, guilty … all sorts of emotions. You have to understand this.
They don’t come to you when they are excited and happy like they would when they are entering the mall for a new dress or going to a concert to see their favourite artiste. They come to you when their body is not working… and they need answers.

They need you to listen.

They need you to understand how they are feeling.

They need you to answer questions… a multitude of questions.

Understand this.

Yes, you have explained a diagnosis to 50 patients that day, the 51st patient still needs an explanation.

Yes, you have not had any meal that day due to a full clinic; the patient before you still needs an explanation.

Yes, you were up all night on a shift the night before in which you lost patients; the patient before you does not know that and he needs clears answers to his questions.

You need to talk to your patients in a way they understand at any point in time. They are relying on you to understand what is going on and to make the best decisions for themselves.

I have talked about patients understanding your struggles, please also understand theirs.

I have been a patient before and it is not easy being one. If it was horrible for me knowing all I know, wouldn’t it be horrible for someone whose life is upside down from a condition that has or could put a stop to living the life he/she knew? That put his or her mortality in question?

I have been a patient before and it is not easy being one. Imagine how you would feel knowing your life is about to change drastically or your mortality is in question?

Why am I writing this now? Thank you for asking!

My friend’s sister was given a diagnosis on Friday that will change her whole life around going forward.
The sister asked the doctor innocently, “how come this is the diagnosis?”

The doctor looked at her and said “Can you let me finish because you can’t teach me my job”.

Ah ahn! Doctor! She wasn’t teaching you; she was asking you.

She called me as she left the Doctor’s office, anxious and confused and I had to tell them to see me.
They came to my home on Saturday and we had a 90-minute talk. For me, it wasn’t about the validity of the diagnosis and I made it clear to them. The issue for them was they didn’t see how the diagnosis was possible and it was up to me to make them understand the why and the how.

It shouldn’t have been me to do this. It should have been the doctor who gave them the diagnosis.
What if she didn’t have me? They may not have believed the diagnosis and probably done nothing only to see the condition get progressively worse. Who do you think would have been to blame in such a scenario?

At the end, I told them they should seek a 2nd opinion as it was what I would do (and what I have done). They left with a greater understanding and less anxiety for the journey ahead.

As Doctors, we can only do so much with the treating and managing an illness but the relationship you have with your patient is important. They have to trust you to believe you and follow your instructions. It starts with how you connect to them and explain the issues at hand.

I usually use a car analogy in teachings so think about this. You have a car that has a fault and you take it to the mechanic. He tells you it is the steering system and that not only would it cost you money and time to change but there are also other allied parts you need to change too.

You say “Oga mechanic, haba! Car that I just drove to Kafanchan yesterday and even here with no trouble. I just heard a whistling sound and I thought to drop by on my way to Mama Sikirat and you mention all this money!!

He replies, “Na so I talk am. Na my work be this, you no fit teach me”.

No one will tell you before you turnaround and go to your lunch and maybe see another mechanic if the “whistling gets louder”. Do I lie?

And that was a car. Why shouldn’t the concern and disbelief over a diagnosis be even more pronounced over a human being? A life? Think about it.

Treat everyone consistently with compassion and empathy and not just a case number.
I have been treated as both – a human being and a case number.

Being treated as a case number in the eyes of your doctor or a health care worker takes away being seen as a human being.

About the author 

Dr Tosin Osikoya

Committed to saving lives. One person at a time.

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