Saturday, February 26, 2011

Solicited advice

Before Thanksgiving last year one of our anatomy professors warned us that we were going to be treated differently by our families when we went home for break. He explained that between the turkey and the pumpkin pie, our families would likely be soliciting medical advice from us. He was right. Even if I can't answer their questions, I like being that person. I savor the roles of caretaker, hand-holder, medical translator, and reference librarian of primary medical literature. Having the knowledge and skills to be a support system is why I originally became an EMT and was part of the impetus to go to medical school.

Recently though, I've been confronted with a few different ways to handle those who offhandedly solicit medical advice from physician friends in social settings. Watching these encounters occur, I totally understand the perspective of both providers.

One answers all questions with "you should talk to your doctor about that", giving no specific answers other than to simply triage the urgency of the situation. Her perspective is that she doesn't have all the facts that their doctor will, and doesn't want to be put in a position of missing something or bearing bad news. She wants to keep boundaries between her personal life and her career.

The other views the ability to offer medical advice as her contribution to relationships. She knows that her schedule limits her ability to be part of the community: to go to shul, volunteer with the chessed committee (making meals for new families, the sick, and those in mourning), pick up carpool, and host holiday meals. So she compensates by constantly "being on call" to those in her community. In a way, she views sharing her skills and knowledge as her debt to society.

I wonder what my stance on friends soliciting medical advice will be. Of course, I actually need to know some medicine before this relevant, but i still find it interesting to think about. Will my career and family life be two separate entities or will they blur into each other? Will I get knocks on my door for emergency consultations during shabbos or will I actually choose to take a complete day of rest? Knowing my personality, I imagine I'll be more like the latter physician constantly there to support friends and family. I'm kind of curios to know other physicians choose to do. I think it is time to start asking my mentors.

No comments: