At the doctor’s office last week, I discovered that despite my progressive ideals, I, too, can be a judgmental jerk.
The story was this: I injured my knee when my 125-pound dog, who was pulling a cart at a local hospital charity event, spooked at a man dressed up as a giant cricket, and slammed the shaft of her cart into the side of my knee. Twice.
Or at least that’s what caused the brilliant bruising all along the outside of my knee. The internal pain didn’t start until I was running down a steep hill about a week later.
Related? I don’t know. I just know my knee hurts when I try to bend it and if I run even a short distance. So I made an appointment with the new intern at our family practice.
When he entered the exam room, I noticed that the new intern was quite young — maybe in his late 20s — but this didn’t faze me. Instead, I told him the story of my adventures. He responded with a series of good questions. Then he poked and prodded and manipulated my knees, stepped back and said, “I think you have runner’s knee.” And suddenly, evil words flashed through my brain. “I wonder how many knees this young fella has actually examined,” I thought to myself. “I wonder if he knows anything about knees at all.”
Feathers and whiskers! I’m in my mid-40s, but you’d have thought I was channeling my dear great-aunt May, who used to shake her cane at her nursing home aides and shout, “You’re not half old enough to help me—go get a grown-up!”
The funny thing is, I can summarize my understanding of knee anatomy in about a dozen words: There’s a “cap,” ligaments, tendons, and some bubble wrap-like stuff that pops and clicks when I go up and down stairs. No doubt the Nice Young Doctor knew more about knees than I did. Nevertheless, when said NYD left the room to get some hand-outs, more malicious words flashed through my mind. “I wonder how this practice actually hires their new doctors,” I thought crankily. “What do they know about this guy anyway?”
I swear I didn’t say a word about my doubts to the doctor. (I’m actually a friendly, respectful person.) But the whole episode made me wonder: How often are physicians aware of their patients’ covert (or overt) biases? And how do they respond? Let us know if your patients have judged you for your age, gender, skin color, clothing choices, lobby art, or whatever…and how you’ve learned to cope.