Angry Doctor

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

What's in a Name?

Dear Sir,

I understand that you were offended by the fact that I referred to you by your age, race, gender and diagnosis instead of your full name when discussing your condition with my consultant at ward round this morning. I would like to explain my reasons for doing so.

1. We doctors are age-ist, racist, and sexist.

Many disease conditions are age-group specific, and some diseases show a predilection for certain ethnic groups. By presenting you by your age and race, we immediately place certain diagnoses higher up the list of possibilities and relegate others to the bottom.

And of course we do not usually consider the prostate as a cause of urinary problems in women, or the ovaries as the source of abdominal pain in men.

So you see, pigeon-holing you in your age, race, and gender category helps us in diagnosing and managing your illness.

2. Your name, much as it is special to you, does not really help our team in identifying you as a unique individual.

As of this morning, I have three Muhammeds, four Tan Ah Kaus, and two Sivas on my ward list.

The hospital understands this problem, which is why you are made to wear a little bracelet with your name and hospital registration number on it so we don't confuse you with other patients who share your name.

Also, your name doesn't really help us in arriving at a diagnosis or treatment plan either.

3. I’ll level with you: nurses identify patients by their bed numbers, physicians by their diagnoses, surgeons by the operation they will be undergoing or have undergone, and the finance department by their bill numbers. That’s because that’s how you relate to our work functions.

(And let’s face it: you do the same. To you and your family, the Nursing Officer is the ‘old missy’, the staff nurse ‘young missy’, my consultant the ‘big doctor’, and myself the ‘small doctor’. I have no problems with that, since classifying us by our function helps you in relating yourself to your environment.)

So you see, much as I would like to add that personal touch by referring to you by your name, it really adds little to our work process and may in fact create confusion.

I am sure you will prefer I use my limited brain capacity to remember what illness you have and how I should treat it, to remembering your name.

Sure it's not world-class service, but you're in a hospital, not a hotel.

Thank you.

angry doc


  • That's a good one.

    Did you really tell the patient that?

    I wonder what the response was.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At September 20, 2005 5:49 pm  

  • Read Disclaimer lah. :)

    By Blogger angry doc, At September 20, 2005 5:53 pm  

  • Yes I have read the disclaimer.

    But then your writing is really!

    It really mirrors real life you know.

    If not for the disclaimer, I would think it was totally real, because it mirrors reality!

    But well I guess the disclaimer renders it all fiction. You're well protected....I think...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At September 20, 2005 6:19 pm  

  • it's true..but a patient would like to be treated as a least address by name..

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At September 20, 2005 7:05 pm  

  • Addressed by names.

    Discussed as cases.

    Treated as patients.

    Billed as customers. :)

    By Blogger angry doc, At September 20, 2005 7:14 pm  

  • how many patients know their doctor by name?

    if i was treated as a person as well, instead of a service provider, id' be more than happy to treat them as people.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At September 20, 2005 8:30 pm  

  • I think as doctors (and service providers) we should try our best to address patients by their names.

    It is the only right thing to do.

    Frustrations aside I sometimes wonder what patients think of sometimes.

    Case in point, a 60 year old cleaner comes in and says she has symptoms A, B, C, D, E, F all belonging to different systems eg musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, repsiratory, dermatological.

    She keeps asking whether I am going to give her medicines for symptoms A-F and insists that I do.

    At the counter she baulks at the number of medicines she is given (4). And then baulks at the bill.

    What gives? Sigh.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At September 20, 2005 8:51 pm  

  • Another good one! :)

    But I still think we should try to addressed our own patients by names. I can't remember all of them but at least have a peak on the casesheet before we start talking.

    By Blogger LT, At September 21, 2005 12:22 am  

  • As a patient, I don't mind not being addressed by name or that the doc has poor bedside manner. Don't really care for the frills. So long as doc has given due care, has been systematic while doing diagnosis, has eliminated all possible causes of whatever's causing my illness and has put me through necessary tests... I'm fine. :)

    By Blogger ckyh, At September 30, 2005 6:20 am  

  • i'm reading from the USA as medical resident in internal medicine. you should write a book- it would sell well in this country to hear some truths about the establishment of medicine. dead on, illuminating, and revealing to me as a practicing phyician.

    By Blogger steve, At July 14, 2007 12:25 pm  

  • Pretty helpful material, thanks so much for the article.
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    By Anonymous Anonymous, At December 30, 2012 9:08 pm  

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