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Why DO doctors take women’s pain less seriously?

on 23 October, 2015

I woke up this morning in a bit more pain than usual. You see, it rained last night (continues to be humid and overcast) and despite the fact that many people will tell you that whole ‘rain aggravates arthritis’ syndrome is just that, it really isn’t. I can attest. My joints are aching big time this morning and it also adds a whole ‘nuther dimension of pain and uncomfortableness because when it happens I don’t sleep well and then everything is exaggerated because of it.

And to top it all off, I had the link to this wonderful study: Why do doctors take women’s pain less seriously?

And after reading, it occurred to me that this is the basis (probably) for the last five times I had to deal with meeting residents while attempting to establish a new primary care doc. (We have an incredible teaching hospital associated with a fairly prestigious university here in Kansas City.) Some years ago when my endocrinologist opted to stop seeing private patients to focus on her hospital work, I made a conscious decision to coordinate all my care around the hospital just to make things easier and to travel to a single place for all of my medical care.

When I did this, I ended up with a third year resident for my primary care and he was wonderful! He listened and asked questions and took the necessary time with me. Unfortunately, once he completed his residency, he moved to west Kansas to provide medical care to an under served part of the state. And thus began my frustrating and aggravating search for a new primary care.

And with reading this article, I now realize that – at least in part – this (the attitude defined in the article) has been part of the problem. I say “part”, but honestly it is probably most of the issue. Because the first thing that each of the residents has attempted to do was to either a) discontinue my pain medications or b) send me to someone else to handle that part. I have been seeing a pain management specialist through the same hospital for more than five years and for the most part we’re handling that part of it nicely. However, these fine residents in all of their lack of experience in the real world, the first thing they want to do is explain why this isn’t a good thing or why the drug I take isn’t effective. And of course, from this point, it is all downhill.

Arrogant sons of a bitches. I know this syndrome even if I don’t know the name of it. I worked with the co-chiefs of OB/GYN department in a large Phoenix hospital (also a teaching hospital) many years ago and it was part of my duties to work with the residents as they came through our service. I did this for more than four years. I worked with dozens, if not hundreds, of these fine men and women. There is something empowering about becoming a doctor, such that one thinks he or she knows more than anyone (not associated with the medical fields) and usually more about the patient than the patient! It reminds me of this joke:

Do you know the difference between God and a doctor? God doesn’t think he’s a doctor.

What makes this funny is that it is true. Healing and saving people is a most empowering feeling. Even working with doctors can give you this feeling.

So, I realize that meeting most of these “doctors” through the primary care clinic, I am encountering this phenomenon in spades. And while I was relatively calm and tried to be understanding, by the fifth time I went in – and this was following an aggravating procedure by the hospital of requesting to see a staff or faculty member instead of a resident but because I had already been seen by one or more residents I couldn’t switch and apparently there were no faculty or staff accepting new patients – I was understandably already agitated. So when he perceived my already established frustration he primary concern changed to focus on my apparent attitude and increased verbal level and became more concerned about my “yelling” and lack of patience rather than my pain, I understandably was upset. Again. For the fifth time.

I know there are folks who understand reading this. Men and women. That when young men and women (I include women although none of my residents were women) are empowered by the fact of graduating and becoming medical doctors, there tends to be a bit of grandiosity about themselves. So they tend to think a bit less about those around them and more about themselves.

Did I mention that a medical student was in tow that day? I can only imagine what he thought. I wish I could ask him.

I probably won’t be able to get a doctor in the greater area after writing this post. Hopefully, though, it will be just the opposite.



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