I’m not a hospital administrator or the owner of a clinic. I’m just a regular person. Yet over my lifetime I’ve had to hire at least three dozen doctors. They’ve been my medical advisors (for family as well as me), my ‘body shop’ people (getting broken parts working again), and a few who have risen to the job of ushering us through life’s transitions, beginning, middle, and end.
Many of them have been great team players. The others, I’ve fired.
For more than half of my lifetime, I’ve been observing and studying the way people team together, and many of those early observations were made in health care environments, such as emergency rooms. I learned that when health care people work as a team, people who looked like they were going straight to the morgue often got to go home. But the reverse was also true. (I hope any of your experiences have been of the first kind, not the second.) So call me an informed patient. (I like that better than ‘health care consumer’ which makes me think I’m eating up a doc’s time, attention and energy, which they need just to get all those forms signed.)
Here’s my job description:
You must be willing to lead, follow or get out of the way, as appropriate.
If I tell you I know little or nothing about something that is critically important (and I can’t learn it quickly enough on Medscape) I need you to take the lead. By that I mean, give me the big picture. The truth, as you see it. Maybe even the truth as others have seen it, making clear which part is medical party line, which part is new research, and which part is your opinion, because I might then feel the need to add another person to our team; one who has a responsible alternative viewpoint.
But then, if I know a lot about something, and I already have firm opinions, I need you to follow. That could mean telling me about options that will help me reach my goal or just pointing me to sources to help me get through whatever I’m going through.
Get out of the way
And sometimes, I might just need you to get out of the way. That could be when the time comes, and I hope that time is long off, when there is no more to be done.
That’s it. The rest is just practicing medicine.