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18 Things We Wish Got More Time in Medical School

The most helpful emails in health
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When you’re a veteran of a specific diagnosis, you know — inside and out — the gaps in knowledge from many medical professionals. Sure, we can’t expect them to understand everything there is to know about every condition on the planet, but it’s important that certain conditions are taught differently and more in-depth than they are right now.

Inspired by a recent article by Ashley Nestler MSW, “What They Need to Really Teach in Medical School About Schizoaffective Disorder,” we asked our community what they wish was taught in medical school about their conditions. The more that medical professionals know about these common experiences, the better quality of life for people like you and me.

Here’s what they told us:

Chronic Illness and Chronic Pain

“That it’s possible for any person — no matter their appearance or any category of demographic — to be in immense pain! Listen and trust folks when they share their pain!” — Skye Gailing

“That long-term chronic pain patients do exist and for those people, the standard pain scale is a joke. In addition, you cannot insist on treating them with the same level of medications that work for other patients. If you don’t know any better, then you should just throw out the book and listen to what your patient is telling you.” — @allpainwaiting4gain

“I wish they would teach that if somebody has chronic pain that nobody can figure, most likely they don’t have hypochondria. Just because the doctors don’t know what is going on doesn’t mean that I am lying or that it is all in my head. There are some people who struggle with hypochondria out there and I am deeply sorry for them, but I wish that doctors wouldn’t assume that about me as a cop-out for actually looking for a diagnosis.” — @sosimtrying

“They need to teach chronic pain and fibromyalgia. Many doctors do not really know anything about fibromyalgia or they don’t believe in it. Maybe if they learned about it in medical school, they wouldn’t be so quick to blame your pain on depression or anxiety. Maybe they would believe us more about chronic pain and know that fibromyalgia really does exist. They need to learn about pain management for chronic illnesses. They need better communication skills and to treat us with respect.” — @01-mountains

“I wish that this country would do away with medical books and professors stating that Black people “have thicker skin” and “fewer nerve endings” than white people, so we experience less pain than any other race, so we don’t need the same amount (if any) pain meds that would normally be given to patients of other races. Also I wish they were taught that it’s possible for women to experience pain, and if a woman says she’s in pain it doesn’t mean she’s being dramatic or hysterical. I wish doctors were taught, given what I mentioned above, what it must be like for a Black woman to try to get help with pain.” — @moxie

“That myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a very real, very devastating illness. It makes me angry that so many doctors still do not treat ME/CFS that way.” — @marvonbrowning

“I wish that they were taught the right battery of blood tests that are needed to identify all of the viruses, bacteria, etc., which will help diagnose the condition more easily. The doctors would run the typical blood panel, which showed nothing but high cholesterol and my iron count.” — @texassonrisa

“That we deserve dignity. Poor people deserve dignity, fat people deserve dignity. We live daily in these bodies, we know best when something is wrong, so listen to us. We aren’t chasing pills; many of us are on a laundry list of medications, so we aren’t chasing more just for giggles. Listen to us before our quality of life is taken from us.” — @tarashort

“We are not living in a medical book! We are living beings that are not all the same. Individual care needs to be taken seriously; we know our bodies when something is not right.” — @joyseekinghope

“I wish they taught not to harass people about their weight. Um, I own a mirror.” — @fathousewife

“Don’t blame the patient for their illness. Their lifestyle may have had a role in the condition, but blaming, shaming, and ultimately gaslighting are not helpful.” — @mamabear5000

Mental Health

“When you see I have PTSD, only ask details if you have a reason for doing so. Don’t ask intrusive questions about what happened to me only to write it down and never discuss it with me. You can help me without knowing every graphic detail. Better questions are: ‘what would you like to focus on today? Are there any resources I can refer you to? How can I make this visit as comfortable as possible for you?’” — @catpi

“That people with bipolar disorder aren’t ‘crazy’ or dangerous. I’m about as likely to hurt someone as I am to fly to the moon without a space shuttle! Also, don’t talk down to me as though I’m a child. I’m 52 years old and I know if my body is in pain or not.” — @sarawyn

“I wish they could appreciate that there doesn’t have to be a trigger for someone to be feeling suicidal; sometimes, they just are. Please don’t minimize how they feel; what you say could be the difference between them being able to open up or just feeling there’s no point” — @hippyrockchick

“I wish OB/GYN and midwives were told that the ‘baby blues’ can be a symptom of more serious problems like postpartum depression, rather than just something to be brushed off and minimized.” — @ariannaolympia

“The relationship between chronic pain and the depression that accompanies it. My pain doctor didn’t get it, but my GP did. The antidepressant that he prescribed was a great help.” — @sashahans

“The real intricacies of anxiety and depression… not just to ‘go for a walk and try relaxation.’ The real chemical/neurological science behind it and how it affects people behaviorally. Ideally, doctors would understand it on a similar level to therapists or psychiatrists.” — @kittycatsnuggles

“That people with schizophrenia aren’t ‘stupid.’” — @smp82

Getty Images photo via elenabs

Originally published: June 8, 2022
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