Good Patients and Difficult Patients: Rethinking Our Definitions

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I wanted to share this very compelling, deeply personal story written from the perspective of a daughter recounting the care (or lack thereof) her father was receiving in a hospital setting. Regrettably, this type of situation (some less, some more severe) happens every day in a hospital or community based setting. It illustrates how some in our health care profession continue to have a biased view of “good” and “difficult” patients. The author challenges the health care profession; when we refer to patients and families “good,” we are rewarding acquiescence. Way too often, “good” means you agree with the provider, you don’t question or challenge the authority or opinion of the provider and you let the provider be in charge of your care. The author concludes that most “difficult” patients are simply trying their best to understand and manage their own or their loved ones’ illness and that we could benefit by viewing more-vocal patients and families as actively engaged in their health care, presenting new or potentially important information, and expressing their unmet needs.

Oh, did I mention the daughter recounting this story is also a physician?


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