Writing a Prescription for Compassion

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One clinician proposes that pharmaceutical companies turn their attention to developing a compassion pill -- for fellow clinicians.
One clinician proposes that pharmaceutical companies turn their attention to developing a compassion pill -- for fellow clinicians.

Doctors have a reputation for whining and complaining.

Long before I became a doctor myself, I used to listen in amazement to doctors I knew complaining about managed care (too controlling) … money (not making enough) ... legal fears (overly litigious patients) … not having enough time to play golf as often as they'd like … and so on.

Eligible subjects for complaint ranged from common topics to individual objections du jour

They included the weather (too hot or too cold), representatives in Congress (too lazy, seriously misguided, corrupt) — even the free food in the doctor's lounge (not enough variety, too much or too little meat, too bland and uninspired) was fair game.

The fact is, you could always count on good old doctor so-and-so to complain about something long and passionately to anyone who would listen for as long as they were willing to listen. Until their ears fell off, if they were that committed to martyrdom.

As a journalist, I tapped into doctor discontent and wrote many excellent articles, for which I was paid handsomely. I never had to worry about the supply of subject matter drying up. The well ran deep.

Now these same whining doctors held privileged positions in society. Not only did they have a very good standard of living compared to most “non-doctor” folks but they were also revered and respected. They could diagnose, treat and heal us. So when I was not one of them, their complaints often seemed largely unfounded, even frivolous.

Now that I am one of them, it's different. As a doctor myself, I deal with patients on the "front lines" of care on a regular basis. I can certainly empathize with all those complaints that I used to listen to with such a skeptical ear. In fact, I have been transformed into one of those complaining doctors myself. I'm a master kvetch, an honorary lifetime member of the Complaining Doctor Club.

Most people who are not medical practitioners haven't a clue why doctors complain so much. They think doctors have it pretty good. What's to complain about? Well, Virginia, sad to say, but there really isn't a Santa Claus — and it's far from cool being a doctor.

So is there any help for a petulant, whiny doctor like me?

Absolutely. The solution is a compassion pill.

I propose that pharmaceutical companies immediately turn their attention to developing such a pill. 

Not for patients, mind you — they already have enough pills. No, this new pill should be just for doctors.

The indication? Doctor attitudes and a tendency to complain. One tablet PO TID and QHS. #120, with unlimited refills. 

Also available in liquid, nebulized, sublingual, intranasal, and pre-lubed suppository form, for those really trying days.

The compassion pill should make me forget about my high medical-school loan debt, about the increased number of patients I must see every day just to survive, and about how overbearing and unpleasant some of these patients can be.

The compassion pill will make me not notice that some patients don't bother showering before coming in. It will help me be more sensitive to patients who seek my knowledge and many years of training because they've had diarrhea for less than one day, or because they're hoping to use a hangnail as an excuse for three days off work.

This wonderful new compassion pill would work directly on the pleasure centers in my brain's nucleus accumbens, and it would be highly addictive, even more so than Percocet. It must be addictive, so I will continue taking it!

Because if I don't take this marvelous pill, I will lose my job. Let's face it. Patients don't want cold medical mechanics wielding scalpels and prescription pads. They expect their doctors to be warm, understanding and nice to them, even when they aren't always nice to their doctors.

So bring on the compassion pill. Please! I may still kvetch at times, but my kvetching will be much more restrained. Maybe I'll continue to grouch about the weather and sneer at the gustatory offerings in the doctor's lounge. But toward all my patients I will be sweet, gentle and totally compassionate — even to those whose behavior really doesn't warrant it.

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