I recently had a meet and greet with my new family doctor in Lethbridge. It had been a long time since I met with a doctor for the first time who would be treating me as a patient, other than my OB nearly five years ago. I sat there 15 minutes before my appointment, feeling my heart race and my palms get sweaty. I was nervous and anxious. What if she didn’t like me? What if she thought I was an annoying waste of time? I sat there and imagined numerous meet and greet scenarios in my head, practicing appropriate responses to questions I predicted would arise during the interview. No, I do not have any chronic medical conditions. Yes, there is a family history of cancer. No, I have never smoked, but yes, I do consume alcohol socially.
I closed my eyes and took some deep breaths. Stay calm and collected, I told myself. A nurse came out to the lobby:
Yeah, people always call me Veronica.
“Veronique,” I corrected her.
“Veronique? Well that’s unique.”
Yeah, I get that a lot too.
“We’re going to begin by weighing you.”
Oh dear. That is my least favourite thing to do…ever. I have been basically 63 kg for years. I may be a size 4, but I weigh 63 kg. The only time I ever weighed less than 60 kg was when I lived on cereal and salad and ran 100 km per week. Nothing is worth sacrificing cheese and carbs, sorry.
My calm and collected self became tachycardic again because now I was worried she’d lecture me about my BMI and tell me I’m overweight and need to stop eating anything with flavour.
After stepping off the scale, I sat in the office fake reading the magazines, waiting for the doctor, just getting more uneasy. I hadn’t thought, until then, that this is how our patients feel – that they come into appointments a little nervous. Yet it makes sense: you are entering a space where some of your deepest, darkest secrets and fears are out in the open. To have a successful encounter, you need to be honest – that isn’t something that comes naturally or easily to most of us. For one primary reason: we worry about being judged.
I hope that my own fear of being judged will prevent me from judging others and somehow help alleviate the butterflies in my patients’ bellies as they sit and wait. If you’re nervous, remember that we’ve all been there, so even just saying at the start of your appointment: “sorry, I’m just a little bit nervous,” can make a world of difference. That’s what I did and it helped. The doctor was kind and considerate. She didn’t judge and she didn’t mention my BMI, but rather commented on how I was doing well juggling so many personal and professional responsibilities. She connected and eased any tension in the room, making it a safe place for me to return. I hope in the future that I can do the same for my patients.
Article originally posted on riversidemedical.ca.