Thursday Born

The everyday life of a psychiatry resident (who was born on a Thursday).

Your Doctor Doesn't Know Everything

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One thing I keep noticing in medical school, is that there is a lot that we aren’t explicitly taught. Yes this is obvious, but… there’s a lot I was expecting to be addressed that I’m realizing is nowhere in the curriculum (at least, not through till second year). There is a lot more that we will learn during third and fourth year, information that can’t/shouldn’t/simply isn’t taught through lectures and textbooks, and that will likely cover some of what I’m noticing is missing. Internship and residencies will take care of yet more information. And once we are properly out in the working medical world, we will still keep learning, because there is always more to know.

But there’s a lot that I think people assume doctors know, that we really don’t. Little gaps that you might think, “Well, she’s a doctor! Of course she knows the answer to this question!” No. Don’t assume that. Not unless the question is, “Is it okay if I take my aspirin and ibuprofen together?” or “What are the major side effects of this drug?”  Questions like, “Do I really need to drink eight glasses of water a day?” or “Is high fructose corn syrup actually bad for me or is it okay like those commercials say it is?” Those are questions that some of us may be willing to answer, but I can’t guarantee that our answers will be right, because we don’t have much more information than you on these topics. A registered dietitian knows much more about food than we do. A physical or occupational therapist knows a lot more about how your body moves and should move and what you need to do to get it optimally functional.

And even in the realm of information that we probably should know, there’s a chance we weren’t taught it. That we never came across a patient with your problem before so even though it exists, we’ve never heard about it or read about it before and can’t immediately help you.  We want to help you, but maybe you’ll just have to be that first patient who inspires us to look a little deeper. Or maybe we’ll fail you and decide it’s all in your head or nothing to worry about and never think about your problem again.

I’ve been coming across this a lot as a medical student. My knowledge is very textbook so when people ask me more practical questions, Do you think this cut will need stitches? Should we ice this bruise?, I’m answering from a similar knowledge base to what they already have. Or I’m using the same resources (the internet!) to find out the answer. I admit I’m more driven to find out the answers now, so if someone asks me something I don’t know, I’m more likely to research it than to say “I don’t know” and leave it at that.

But the answer is always going to be “I don’t know” to some of these doctor-type questions, because I can’t know it all. And neither does your doctor. Trust us, and still ask us, because we do (I say we like I count, but I don’t just yet) have a wide knowledge base to draw from and we might be better able to find the answer. And I think it’s best to trust a doctor who occasionally says, “I’m not sure but I’ll look into it” than doctors who give half answers that show they’re just guessing and they’re not going to bother looking into it later. I’ve had those doctors before, as a patient, and yeah, they’re annoying.

Written by Aba

October 5, 2010 at 1:01 pm

2 Responses

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    we were presented with this today in my neuro class. lol.


    October 6, 2010 at 12:50 am

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