I’m not a hospital administrator or the owner of a clinic, yet over my lifetime I’ve had to hire at least three dozen doctors. They’ve been medical advisors, surgical ‘fixers’, and those who have risen to the job of ushering my family through life’s transitions: beginning, middle, and end.
For most of my life, 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 physicians and staff team well together, people who might have gone straight to the morgue can walk out instead of being pushed out feet first. So people often ask me how to pick a good doctor. And this is what I tell them.
A great doctor – at least for me – must be willing to lead, follow or get out of the way, as appropriate. Here’s what I mean.
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, pointing me to the support structures or information 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.