Podcast: When You’re the Patient, Not the Practitioner

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Welcome to the Veterinary Breakroom! In the breakroom, Alyssa Watson, DVM, and Beth Molleson, DVM, discuss the important, relevant topics affecting veterinarians today. Clients with human medical training can sometimes cause frustration among veterinary teams when they challenge the veterinarian’s expertise in treating their animals. But in this episode, Dr. Alyssa and Dr. Beth candidly consider whether they, as veterinarians, might also make for difficult patients. Do they inadvertently impede their own treatment by self-diagnosing or attempting to manage their illnesses without seeking professional guidance? Listen in as they turn the mirror on themselves and try to strike the right balance between expertise and humility in the medical field.


Episode Transcript

This podcast recording represents the opinions of Dr. Watson and Dr. Molleson. Content, including the transcript, is presented for discussion purposes and should not be taken as medical advice. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast. The transcript which was prepared with the assistance of artificial intelligence is provided as a service to our audience.

Dr. Alyssa [00:00:10] Hi, everyone. I'm Dr. Alyssa Watson.

Dr. Beth [00:00:13] And I'm Dr. Beth Molleson.

Dr. Alyssa [00:00:15] Thanks for joining us again in the Veterinary Breakroom. In the Breakroom, Dr. Beth and I have short conversations about relevant topics in veterinary medicine. And this week we are going to be talking about reversing the rules and being a patient instead of being the treating doctor. This came up because actually Dr. Beth and I both have had some recent doctor visits. And I know that for me personally, there's always kind of a running joke, kind of a stereotype, if you will, about whether or not doctors and nurses make good clients. And so I thought I would hold up the mirror and look at myself and see, do I really make a good patient? And I have decided that I definitely do not make a good patient. How about yourself, Dr. Beth?

Dr. Beth [00:01:18] Ya know, maybe, maybe I'm wrong, we'd have to call my doctor up, but I think I make a pretty good patient. Well, I think we also need to define what that means for us. Because to me, there's a few different aspects. Like one part could be, you know, are you one of those people that goes to the doctor regularly, or are you one of those people that could ignore a concerning symptom for years, hoping that it goes away? I feel like that could be a one definition of good or bad. And then the other one, of course, maybe is more like, are you compliant? Do you listen to their recommendations? Or are you the type that self-treats or self-diagnoses? So, Alyssa, when you say you're a bad patient, what are you basing that off of?

Dr. Alyssa [00:02:05] Okay. So, I definitely want to clarify, I am not a mean patient. So that is something that I think is very important. I am very empathetic toward all of the staff at all of my doctors' offices. So my main doctor, you know, as we'll say a middle-aged woman is certainly my OBGYN. And I had that appointment this week. And I love my doctor, I love my OBGYN. I will tell you, she is chronically late. And I sit in the room for generally over an hour waiting for her, and it's been a frustration over the years. But I'm always I'm always careful to remember that there are other people that need her time and probably, you know, are a higher priority than me, you know, oftentimes. And so, but I will say that what you were talking about, you know, putting off care for yourself, that is something that I am really horrible at. So, for instance, I got a script or order for a mammogram from my doctor yesterday when I was in for my appointment. And I know I need to make that appointment to have my mammogram. And I looked back to see last year and I it took me two and a half months from the time I got the order. In fact, I think I had to like call my OBGYN's office and do another order because it expired. And so my goal this year is not to do that. I'm going to call and make the appointment for my mammogram. But just like trying to fit in those those appointments for my own care. The other thing I need to go to the eye doctor. You know, since I turned 45, I, my close vision is very poor. I'm one of those people that, you know, I, I ordered a bunch of readers off of Amazon. Instead of making an appointment and going to the doctor and getting my eyes checked, and I just have been making do for all that time.

Dr. Beth [00:04:26] I will say that's one area where I feel like I can't identify. I am the opposite. I'm like the hypochondriac that has a sore throat and immediately needs to be seen by the doctor to see if it's an abscess, rather than it just being like a head cold. So I feel like maybe that impacts, I don't know, my my big issue when I would say I'm a bad patient and well, okay, let me ask you this question first, Alyssa, do you tell, when you're seeing a doctor, do you always tell them you're a vet? Or is it just at the point where your main doctors know already?

Dr. Alyssa [00:05:03] My main doctors know already. It's literally like the one doctor.

Dr. Beth [00:05:08] Oh that's right.

Dr. Alyssa [00:05:11] And every year, well not anymore because it passed away, but every year she used to ask me about her hypothyroid cat like every year like during my exam. I'm like, this is very uncomfortable. Can I get dressed, and then we can talk about your hypothyroid cat?

Dr. Beth [00:05:26] I know, I feel like I've answered a lot of vet questions during breast exams. I don't know if the doctors feel like it's a time to make you feel more comfortable. But anyway, the reason I ask is because my primary doctor, you know, again, back to my hypochondria, he always says to me, he knows I'm a vet. His dad was a vet, so I think he likes that connection. He likes that I have that medical background. But he constantly says to me, you are not allowed to diagnose yourself. You need to let me do that. And he means that from a place of compassion where, you know, I go in and I'm like, probably this abscess on my tonsil, I bet I'm going to need it drained and then I'm going to be septic and all of that. But that's where my head goes. And he is like, no, as far as you're concerned, all you have is a sore throat. You need to come to me for any additional thoughts about it. You cannot be diagnosing yourself. Which I feel like is very sweet, but that's where I'm the bad patient is, I'm the Googler. I try not to, like, admit that to the doctor, but again, I'm the person that, like, comes in thinking maybe they have ideas. But I don't think, like you, I think being in the health care field, on the veterinary side of things, we at least have that compassion about, you know, what doctors go through in a day, knowing that their appointments are 15 minutes, knowing that the wait staff has, the wait staff, that the, you know, assistants and nurses have been yelled at by different patients throughout the day. You know, I think that compassion brings a lot to it and makes us better patients, I think in that regard. But at the same time, I do sometimes feel like that medical knowledge can make it a little tricky. Especially, let's go back to the self-treatment. Are you like a "I'm going to diagnose and self-treat type of person?"

Dr. Alyssa [00:07:14] I feel like I have a, I'm in a very special circumstance there because my brother is an ER physician, and he also lives here in town. And so we've kind of created this symbiotic relationship between the two of us where if he needs anything for his pets, he calls me, and if I need anything for myself or the kids or oftentimes my husband, I'll call him and be like, this is what's going on. I need a Z pack called it. And can you do that for me this morning?

Dr. Beth [00:07:47] That's a nice symbiotic relationship. Do you feel like having him as a brother makes you a better patient? Or how do you feel like that affects your relationship with human health care?

Dr. Alyssa [00:07:56] I actually do, I actually do. Again, just from the standpoint of, I know what he goes through and I, you know, he'll call me up and tell me about a particularly difficult day, or something that happened. And it gives me a lot of empathy for especially people in ER medicine right now. And so, so yeah. So I think that does make me a little bit better patient from that standpoint. Again, when you're talking about like, what is a good patient? You know, I think just being a good person is.

Dr. Beth [00:08:37] Really all the doctors ask for.

Dr. Alyssa [00:08:39] Really. Exactly.

Dr. Beth [00:08:41] Yeah, at the end of the day. I feel like the other, I don't know if this would qualify as a bad patient, but I feel like where being a vet impacts my relationship with human health care, I feel like it gives me more... It's almost like you know too much. Like, you know that not all doctors are created equal. You know that mistakes happen. You know that the staff may not be fully trained. You know that these people are overworked and busy and maybe don't know everything. You know, like I feel like it adds to my anxiety. Well again, we've established that I'm anxious about health in general, but it almost like I will see friends be like, oh yeah, the doctor said X, Y or Z. And they kind of take that as fact and don't give it a second thought. And I'm over here like, oh, you know, not all doctors can be can be trusted. What if they're too busy? What if they don't know what they're talking about? So I don't know, something about, I think knowing too much but not enough that puts me in that weird spot, when it comes to to diagnostics, to. So.

Dr. Alyssa [00:09:47] Yeah, I think that that's a really good point. Another place that I find myself sometimes being questioning things is billing and money because I'm like, okay, that like pill of Tylenol should not have cost $50.

Dr. Beth [00:10:06] Yeah, that's a really good point. I took my three year old to the pediatrician because I, he just had a slight fever, but I knew that the flu was going around in his classroom, so I wanted to be proactive about maybe, again proactive with my health care visits, but wanted to, you know, consider Tamiflu if it was the flu. So I took him in. I think they wound up doing a flu test and a strep test because his tonsils looked a little red. And long story short, he did have the flu. But that visit cost $500, and I just was shocked at the cost. And, the flu test was broken down into two different line items on my bill. Like, it was like, you know, two different quick view flu tests. But I know that the quick view flu test is just one test, but because it tests for two different strains, they bill you twice. So yeah, there are instances like that where I'm like, it would be better off if I just paid this, didn't try to compare what it would be for a quick visit in my office. All that good stuff. Because of course that's comparing apples and oranges when it comes to cost. But I'm with you. It's like, yeah, you see, the Tylenol cost $50 and makes your skin crawl.

Dr. Alyssa [00:11:25] So it does kind of, you know, kind of bringing us back right to the top of the episode, it does kind of make me perhaps step back a little bit and give those doctors and nurses that come in a little bit more grace because they're probably just going through all the same things that we're doing.

Dr. Beth [00:11:45] I'm with you. In fact, I was at the doctor yesterday and I walked in and there was I could tell there was like tension in the waiting room that as soon as you walked in and there was a patient who was unhappy about something and being quite rude to the staff, and I just my first thought was like, oh, I wish I would have like brought you guys donuts or, I don't know, brought you something because I just, I know that feeling and I know how demoralizing it is. So I think, again, that just brings us back to the compassion point. And I think that in a lot of cases, no matter how we define it, makes us better patients. I like to think.

Dr. Alyssa [00:12:22] I like to think so.

Dr. Beth [00:12:24] We need to get your brother on here and ask.

Dr. Alyssa [00:12:26] We should. We absolutely should. Well, I think that brings us to our the end of of today's episode and our win of the week. I'm going to keep it very themed. And my win of the week is that I got my annual done out of the way. My annual doctor's visit early, I didn't, I only had to reschedule it twice this year, which that's like a record for me. And like and my doctor was great and on time and and I only waited in the room 52 minutes. So that is like the biggest win for me.

Dr. Beth [00:13:02] Did you see that meme that's like, how long or I don't know if it's a meme, but whatever a tweet, how long would you wait naked in the exam room waiting for your doctor? For me, it's seven hours or something. For those of us that are that are people pleasers, I think, we can all relate to that. So I'm glad it was only 52 minutes for you.

Dr. Alyssa [00:13:23] Yep. How about you? Do you have a win this week?

Dr. Beth [00:13:25] Yes, I'm going to keep mine on theme too. This might be TMI for some of our audience, but I got my colonoscopy yesterday. And if anybody that hasn't been through it is probably, you know, like whatever anyone that has been through it knows that that is a feat because it just, well, I shouldn't scare people from getting it, but just the not eating for a full day beforehand and then having to do the whole cleanse. I just felt very proud of myself afterward and I had nice clean results, which is even better. But, yeah, I was, I really was. That was a major win, getting it done and having healthy results. There's nothing more I could ask for. So again, keeping it on topic, that's a major win for me this week.

Dr. Alyssa [00:14:09] That's that's really good. I'm really glad. And and it is one of those things that you've just got to do. Like adulting is hard. But we got we got to do it.

Dr. Beth [00:14:19] Right. Let this serve as a PSA to schedule those appointments despite our busy schedules. Because it matters.

Dr. Alyssa [00:14:24] Exactly. Yeah, you need to take care of yourself first so. Well, thanks everybody for listening. We'll catch you next time.

Contact us:

  • Podcast@briefmedia.com

Where to find us:

The Team:

  • Alyssa Watson, DVM - Host

  • Beth Molleson, DVM - Host

  • Alexis Ussery - Producer & Multimedia Specialist

This podcast recording represents the opinions of Dr. Alyssa Watson and Dr. Beth Molleson. Content is presented for discussion purposes and should not be taken as medical advice. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast.