Feature Archive

How Do You Know Your Doctors Are Listening? (And What to Do if They're Not)

WebMD Feature

May 15, 2000 -- As a nurse practitioner, there's nothing I appreciate more than the patient who reminds me when I'm not doing my basic job -- listening to her. The other day, a patient said to me, "You're really busy today," and I knew that was code for "You're not making eye contact, you're not asking questions, you're treating me not as a person, but as a product on a conveyer belt."

Here are some situations that might lead you to suspect your doctor is not listening -- and how to find out if you're correct.

  1. Recently I was a patient at the office of a dentist who seemed totally distracted. In between the first shot of novocaine (which wore off by the time he got back to me) and the second, I heard him ordering furniture, taking calls, and giving orders to his staff. When he finally got back to me, I said, "You seem distracted today." He said, "No, I'm not."

    Wrong answer. He should have said, "I'm sorry you feel that way," or given some other explanation for his behavior. After he finished working on my teeth that day, I never went back. Perhaps I should have also, as a courtesy, sent him a letter explaining why.

  2. Your doctor enters the exam room, sits down, and immediately puts her pen to the prescription pad as if she's in a contest to see how fast she can get you out. You barely mutter "big globs of green sputum" and she's handing you the prescription and telling you not to call her in the morning. Her rushing leaves you feeling neglected. How can you get the healing you came for?