Doctors get sick. When we do, we have to face the same troubles that the non-physician does. We have to fill out the same forms to get into the hospital. We have to deal with our insurance companies, and we face all the old and new rules to save money.

Books and movies have been produced about doctors’ attitudes before and after they develop illnesses of their own. It not only makes good reading but often educates the physician about the world of medicine, from the patient’s point of view.

Nowhere that I know of in the medical school curriculum is a course about what it’s like to be a patient. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to put every medical student (and all doctors already out of school) into the hospital for a while and do to the “patient” some of the same things that happen to real patients?

What are some of the things we could do? First of all we could dress the doctors in those specially tailored hospital gowns and let them walk out in the hallway with “you know what” exposed.

Give them all some of the special treatments like enemas, and put tubes everywhere. We could wait until they just fall asleep and wake them up to ask them if they want sleeping pills. We could wake them up again to take their temperatures and blood pressures.

It’s interesting, being wheeled about on a stretcher, so that all you can see is the moving ceiling. How about a good bed-bath? A few shots would also be nice. After that the doctors would probably think Marine boot camp a gentle experience. It would give them a new outlook on health care from the patient’s point of view.

Oh, I almost forgot. When they are finished, we will send them a bill and make them pay good money for the experience.
Now, that’s realism. I know you could add many more such experiences to the list, but I do have some compassion for my fellow doctors.

This is all to point out that those of us in the health care business often do forget about the patients. We get so fascinated with all the new medical technology that we lose sight of what we are supposed to be about. We are supposed to be caring human beings who have been entrusted by you to care for the well being of all. We are well paid for this trust. Although we have spent considerable time learning how to be successful, we must always remember that it was you who allowed us to do it.

Caring is still the key for successful medical care. Caring is cheap; it doesn’t require major technology or equipment. It doesn’t even require a great deal of training. It does require some effort and time, but it’s worth it.
Are you getting the care you desire? If not, fix it. You are the patient, and as the old expression goes, “the patient is always right.”

Dr. Michael M. Warren is the Ashbel Smith professor of surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch Division of Urology. Email him at