The One Question You Must Ask Your Doctor

#1 Question Ask Doctor

Your doctor has more control over your life than anyone—other than you.

Your doctor may be the first face you see as you’re born and the last one you see as you die. Doctors look deep inside you, in places nobody has been before. Doctors prescribe drugs that can kill you or save your life.

But how do you know if your doc is paying attention, really listening to your concerns, and taking the time to properly assess your condition?

You don’t. Unless you ask a question patients rarely ask: “Doc, are you being abused?”

Doctors are commonly bullied and abused by their employers. Don’t believe me? Watch this:

So why should you care?

Abused doctors may be extremely frustrated, depressed—even suicidal.

Doctors like this who are thorough and who really, really care about their patients may leave their practices and patients or retire early just to escape the abuse.

The current health care system favors doctors who are willing to be abused and to abuse their patients by pushing them through in 5-10 minutes appointments. The current health care system favors doctors who are willing to quickly throw pills at you and get you out the door. The current health care system favors doctors who are willing to ignore your serious symptoms and concerns or delay your treatment of potentially life-threatening conditions.

Abused doctors are being forced to abuse their patients. Is this the kind of health care you believe in?

There’s only one way to know if your doctor is being abused. Ask.

The life you save may save you.

Pamela Wible, M.D., is a family physician who founded the first ideal medical clinic designed entirely by patients. She offers physician retreats where she helps doctors recover from their abuse so they can get back to caring for their patients.

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18 comments on “The One Question You Must Ask Your Doctor
  1. Mary DeForest says:

    Thank you, this explains so much. I had a pretty decent PCP. He sometimes seemed stressed out and preoccupied.

    One day he came in almost shaking. He said that he hated seeing me, because I was one of the very few patients that didn’t verbally abuse him. He just saw 3 hell raisers that blamed him for the sun coming up in the East. After he saw me, he’d see more hell raisers. He told me how hard it was to shift gears, to let his defenses down while we had a reasonable and civil visit. Then it was so hard to ramp it back up for the next abusive patient and try to have his emotional armor up.

    I know that he was greatly abused by the HMO. I hated that.

    Once I suggested that the HMO get an Urgent Care clinic on this side of the city. I received a letter saying that they counseled my poor PCP about not advising me where the UR clinics are. I made the mistake of calling them up and telling them I had maps in their booklets, and they had maps on their website. They called me up just before a visit and said that they’d counsel him again. I went in crying and apologized for making trouble for him. He said that it was OK-nothing happened. As I went out the door, he told me where every Urgent Care clinic was. I began crying.

    They told him that he couldn’t prescribe my stomach med for IBS-Medicare and the HMO doesn’t approve it. I told them that I paid for it myself-and this should be between me and my doctor. Same thing with Armour thyroid. These 2 things are the tip of the ice berg.

    I realized that he was probably having a nervous break down, but it reached the point that my medical care was being impacted. A sympathetic cardiologist scanned my EMR, and said that I should go an internist so my thyroid could be better cared for (code for less interference from the stupid HMO pharmacy board). Anyway the cardilogist got me off of the 9 month + waiting list for a different PCP. Marie down the street was on the list to get a new PCP for 11 months-same HMO.

    I taught math to high school gang bangers, and I was usually treated more respectfully by students and parents than doctors are treated by some patients. I can’t say that administration was that great to me, but most of the students were fairly decent.

    I still don’t see why I have to drive over 10 miles when I’m sick, and it wasn’t my PCP’s fault that I asked that question. I used to live a 100 miles out on ranches-I just think that a city should be more convenient.

    Again-thank you-it’s so sad this happens to physicians.

  2. Young Doc says:

    Thank you for sharing this video. In one sense it was validating because the powers that be have implied that I, too, am “dumb and inefficient.” There is absolutely no way this lady can possibly be dumb or inefficient if she is managing to see that volume of complex patients. So maybe I’m not actually so bad off, either. (ie – it was nice to know I’m not alone. And to the doctor in the video: YOU are not alone either. You are a ROCK STAR and don’t let them make you believe otherwise!) But aside from my own selfish sense of validation & knowing I’m not the only one, I really feel for this woman. Please, please, please find some other way to serve your patients that lets you provide the level of care that you feel right about, and that does not take such a toll on you. I’m not sure what would work in your situation, but maybe consider the “direct care” model – ? That’s the route I’ve decided to take, first thing out of residency. I’m just starting up so I’m only going on faith at this point – but I can’t imagine how miserable I’d be if I were working under the doc-as-commodity / insurance-co-mandates-what-you-can-do model. (Kind of makes me feel “guilty” for taking this “easy way out” when I see how the system has chewed up others even so much worse than I have been!) You are an awesome person and you deserve to be happy – please find a way to make that happen! I know you can do it! HANG IN THERE and thank you for all that you do!

  3. Julie Greene says:

    Sorry, Pamela, I sure don’t feel sorry for doctors. I’ve had a few jobs too, and yes, a job, ANY job, is stressful and I was called “stupid” on the job, too. It’s a given. You earn money if you have a job, and those that don’t have jobs don’t earn money and are still called stupid…BY doctors, especially if they are poor. All my doctors called me stupid, so I stopped going to doctors. They were all abusive to me. I am right now fighting for the rights of some very smart patients whose dignity, privacy, respect, and every human right imaginable have been taken away from them. Imagine being imprisoned in a hospital and ABUSED, having no life at all, just because a doctor arbitrarily declared you incompetent. I think I don’t feel sorry for those rich employed doctors who get to live in real homes with loving families. Sorry.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      It’s a cycle of abuse that needs to be stopped. And it starts when these loving young idealistic medical students’ souls are lost during training. How? By hazing, bullying, and abuse that will trickle right down to patients unless it is stopped. None of us went into medicine to be sadists. We pursue this career because we love people and want to help them. For the abuse to end, we must eradicate where it starts.

      And when you figure the massive loans and 24/7 call, most docs make less than teachers and UPS delivery drivers. Doctor bashing by considering docs rich, greedy, and uncaring (vs. injured with PTSD and other deep wounds often perpetrated on them by their training) is not productive.

      And I am sorry that you have been injured by some obviously very injured doctors. I’d like to heal the healers so that no patient is ever mistreated again.

      Blessings to you Julie and thank you for sharing your thoughts. Always appreciated.

    • SteveofCaley says:

      Our society tolerates cruelty, as long as it is “deserved” by the victim. We tolerated slavery for a long time – and genocide against American Indians under this rubric. Failing to fight for human dignity is common in this society. And yes, I have treated people who are quite disrespected in society, and yes, I meet them as human beings with dignity and respect.
      Fight for the rights of individuals. Fight for the rights of abused and incarcerated individuals. Fight for the rights of the involuntary committed individuals. But do not do so with hate towards any other class of persons. It just makes the Devil roll about in glee and laughter – “yes, hate each other more!”
      God makes humans, not me. They are endowed with the will and right to be respected for their humanity, even if they have been wicked. If I forget that, I am at risk of becoming equally wicked as well.

  4. Laura says:

    Thank you, Pamela, for sharing this post and to those how have also shared on it. As my husband Geoff continues to share with me what peacemaking and nonviolence are, I also continue to learn that being overly stressed is a type of experience that must be met with different strategies at different times, which is a hard thing to remember – and even harder to do when what seems reasonable, expected, responsible, adult, cool, politically correct, even godly is to “not have needs”. –To do so generally means that “abuse” will follow (or at least the fear of abuse, which for those of us who also learned not to accept our fears as something we can learn to accept as part of being human, seems “unreal” – so that we “abuse” our selves for feeling it).

    Right now, though, I still believe there is hope, that with the right type of help, each of us can learn to accept our needs, including the ones attached to fear, and to find solutions to help our selves cope better. Then, as we do, we can begin to change society to reflect healthier attitudes. But this is an experience that takes much time, acceptance of mistakes, even times of needing to know that we need support from others. I wish us all courage on this journey.

  5. nys rural patient says:

    I live in a rural area that has a shortage of doctors. I think my ex-pcp was bullied his employer.
    I lost my care after HIS employer sent me a letter they would no longer treat me.
    The I was fired when i need care by someone not even my doctor. I was barred from their whole county wide system and it has been a night mare for me to find care. I am Labeled.
    I feel empathy for my dr. He is human. He told me the day my care stopped abruptly without notice…. that “HE NEEDED A JOB. I said i’d just like to feel better.
    Of all the things i have gone thru i never had resentment for this guy. I believed him. He needed that job.
    The other hand is he made a choice, putting himself ahead of a patients illness. He is a meek guy. But i didn’t feel he was lying either. He was being honest. The day felt like a dream he told me. I’d been a patient for sometime. I think this happened to alot of this business patients. BULLIES they are to patients and staff. What he did wasn’t right, i would bet it bothers him, for that i’m sorry. I think he is bullied, bet he still is, and it rolled down hill on this sick person, me. I don’t think his heart is mean, he’s stressed. I still suffer – he killed my trust in doctors . they made me suffer and ignored me. They are bullies
    If i ever feel better i am going to work to change things for the better – for all of us.
    I also have had my share of doctors after this.who are bullies to me openly blaming me for “Obama Bullshit.” I am just a sick person in search of reasonable care not bulling or blacklisting. I am gonna write a book… healthcare has changed. just ask me… ty

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      We absolutely must end this cycle of abuse that rolls right down onto patients. As healers we never intended to hurt our patients. I am so sorry that you have suffered. I get it. And I am spending nearly every waking moment working on this by first healing our healers.

  6. ABUSED! Oh my HEART!!! But come to think of it, my psych lady says she’s _SO_ relieved to be her own boss, nearly every time we get together. It hadn’t occurred to me that other physicians might feel they have to stand for it.
    Now that I’ve entered the Age of Specialists, I’ll be sure to ask them as I see them. Also my beloved GP, an ARNP.
    This is a tragedy– to think that the people we so respect, and that we need total honesty from might not be able to give it. You’re right– it must frustrate them beyond endurance! I’m going to start asking. Thank you, Dr. Wible, for sharing this inside insight. And go gettem gurrl, bite the bullies in the bee-hind for me, too!
    –Dandy (patient w/ pharmacy backgnd)

  7. Dr M says:

    RE workplace abuse.

    Having worked in 4 different settings for the last 25 years in Family Medicine in a suburban/rural community, I can certain attest to the issues at hand.

    1) worked in staff model HMO, now disbanded, for 6 years. Many initiatives for “efficiencies,” as well as a seminar for “relaxation techniques.” After my leaving, I found out from others I had been scheduled for “replacement” for several years but they could not find anyone willing to put up with the work setting. Of the 6 doctors, 1 NP working, 1/2 were laid off on a Friday, and the rest of the staff model was sold within 15 months.

    2) worked for 8 years for a hospital owned practice, after awhile, it was apparent that the administration decided that the Medicaid loss should be “offset by volume” even though this was nonsense. Almost all the primary care doctors were “let go” with 30 day notice. I had an attorney so they had to pay me the 6 months’ severance. I stayed as a solo, so have had the satisfaction of seeing that office have 5 new physicians in the last 10 years.

    3) there are many additional stresses as an independent, but if the insurers are willing (usually the answer is yes), you have the knowledge to run an office (or know who to ask) and the patients know about you, it is possible to be independent and fulfilled.

    Sadly, there are patients that are not a good “fit,” and it is important that you set some personal boundaries. I have had to enforce this on rare occasions… but it is important that you are willing to do this.

    Regards to all.

    Dr M
    Western PA
    matlev@comcast.net

  8. Micaela says:

    Great post. I am a psychiatrist working in a rural hospital who regularly gets slammed with 30 patients in just one day. The hospital then pressures me to “bill the full amount of time” which I refuse to do; if I have 30 patients, I can not see them for 25 minutes each, no way. When I ask that the census of new patients be limited, I’m told it is my fault a nurse won’t be able to pay her rent. Who suffers most: my children and my patients. Mt children, because either they don’t see me at all two or three days a week, and when they do, I’m sitting dictating notes, and they have to hear horrible stories about broken lives. My patients are not yet suffering the full brunt because I am still very energetic and enthusiastic and still going top speed at 9pm sometimes when I finally get the the last inpatient. I’m still deliriously happy, four years after finishing residency, that I get to be a doctor. However, they will be hurt badly in 19 days when I leave after completing my 4 year contract. The hospital has not found a replacement for me, partly because I have been very honest with psychiatry residents who have shadowed me to explore rural psychiatry.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Yep! You gotta take care of yourself before you can care of others. Doctors need to stop be ing victims if they want to be healers. ZERO tolerance for abuse against our doctors.

      • Micaela says:

        Thank you for saying that. I was feeling very guilty about the fact I’m “abandoning” my patients.

        • Pamela Wible MD says:

          There should be no guilt felt in abandoning one’s abuser. That’s called self love. If you do not love and care for yourself how will you ever be able to love and care for your patients?

  9. Scott Dave says:

    Hi,Thank you for your good blog

  10. jon says:

    i’m not sure,but it seems like the physician in the video is in a support group or in group therapy that has a professional there to make sure they don’t spin into a crisis. I feel that there is a risk for a patient to ask such a question to a dr. who might be hiding how very fragile he/she is. Asking the question at the wrong time or to the wrong person might increase the risk for suicide. I was wondering if having physician support groups might be part of the answer in getting some help without them having to report mental health treatment to a board?

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Yes. This was filmed at my physician retreat so it was a supportive environment to share our true feelings. Some docs were crying about cases from 30 years ago! YES! Absolutely we must have physician and medical student support groups weekly so we can decompress from the enormous amount of pain and suffering we witness daily. All high-risk professions (firefighters, police, doctors, nurses) should have these free weekly support services available and there is no reason to stigmatize (or even worse -> blame and shame) those who suffer from workplace stress. How many of us could tell a family that their 3 year old child died in a car accident and then just “move on” to the next room without any emotional distress?

  11. Barb says:

    Poor, Poor lovely woman m.d. God Bless you and keep being kind and compassionate!!!! like you are and try NOT to be so hard on yourself…God sees what you are doing!!! Bless your heart!!

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