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What I Wish Doctors Would Remember When Diagnosing Patients

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Dear Doctors,

Thank you. Thank you for your long hours of study and work. You work one of the most difficult jobs, but I have just one more thing to ask of you. Please remember that your patients will remember your words for the rest of their lives.

Dear Doctors,

Thank you. Thank you for coming in early for patient testing and leaving late after delivering the news. I know your feet hurt and your stomach is empty, but I have just one more thing to ask of you. Please remember that how you deliver the diagnosis can be a huge factor in your patients’ lives. Let me explain.

I was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 17 years old. I had been admitted to a youth psychiatric hospital voluntarily. I was confused, frightened, tired and absolutely terrible to deal with. I bothered the security guard every night because someone was in my room. There wasn’t anyone there, but he so kindly checked anyway while I waited with the nurses. The days were filled with group sessions on anger management, time management and other activities. The therapist helped us laugh. He helped us answer hard questions and let us cry things out. We were just children. The other patients sat with me, and I with them, when our minds were too much. We helped each other when our medicines reacted poorly with our bodies. Finally the day came. My doctor had checked all my boxes so I could go home. As I left I was awarded my diagnosis paper where my obstacle was typed in bold in a small box. I was left with so many questions. My box read: disorganized schizophrenia.

It was nice to have a name for it, but it brought about more questions than answers. I walked out of that ward feeling a loss of direction. Yes, I had been set up a follow up appointment with a psychologist and psychiatrist. Yes, I attended them, but I was unprepared. A few paragraphs under that diagnosis or typed link to a website would have been better than nothing. A discussion during my last hospital session would have been helpful. Something to explain would have been better than the empty white space on that page.

Dear Doctors,

Thank you again for your hard work. Please try to make time for some sort of explanation to scared patients. Thank you.

Getty image by AnnaStills

Originally published: March 23, 2021
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