14 November 2013

Trying to educate doctors

A few weeks ago (the day after the launch of the Lymphoedema Stories booklet) I had a gap in my schedule and decided to take a walk around my work neighbourhood with a few copies of the booklet and my business cards and introduce myself to a couple of the local medical practices.  I've sent numerous letters and emails to various medical groups over the years and to be honest, there's never any response but I haven't done the rounds in person.  That's a whole other kettle of fish.

The first practice I went into I was greeted by a lovely receptionist who listened intently, exclaimed how useful it would be to have the information as they have a few lymphoedema patients and she took a couple booklets and some of my cards to distribute amongst the doctors.

In the second practice, a brand new premises (old practice, new digs) I was again very welcomed by the receptionist.  I showed her the booklet and asked if I could leave some for the doctors and she suggested that the best approach might be to book in to one of the "rep presentation slots" they schedule regularly and that way I could have access to the doctors directly.  She said there were seven doctors in the practice.  I thought, what a great idea.  So I booked myself in for about two months later which was the earliest we both had a gap at the same time.

Last Friday I sat and made up a short powerpoint presentation with a few dot points ... the functions of the lymphatic system; benefits of manual lymphatic drainage; conditions it helps; lipoedema and some before and after photos that my clients had given me permission to share.  I calculated I'd probably have ten to fifteen minutes max in order to convince them of the benefits of lymphatic drainage.

Yesterday was the day and I felt very confident, which was a bit of a surprise for me - I don't have a lot of experience with public speaking and I usually get very nervous before hand but it wasn't like that this time.

In I walk at 11.45 for my presentation at 12 o'clock (have I ever mentioned that I am chronically early?).  I introduced myself to the receptionist who said "ah yes" then looked at me expectantly.  "I'm a little early" I offered in response to her quizzical look.  She replied "the reps usually bring lunch".  Huh?!  After a second's pause I replied "but I'm not a rep and I don't have an expense account and you didn't tell me that when I made the booking".  "Well, the reps always bring lunch, I figured you'd know".  "But I'm not a rep".  "Well, the reps usually bring lunch".  By that stage I was ready to hit the roof ... not a great start.  So I asked if I should go and get some food and she said "it's really up to you, but the reps usually bring lunch".  Agrhhhh!

I went and got some sushi and was back in time for 12.  It pays to be early right.


Photo courtesy google images, http://www.supergreenlandmarket.com/online/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Sushi-Plate-Hd-Widescreen-Wallpapers.jpeg

In I walk and she then tells me to set up in the kitchenette behind her and that's where I'll be presenting.  Honestly, three people could stand shoulder to shoulder in the space but they would be squashed, not a lot of room.  So I set up my little lap top on the bar fridge and waited.  At 12.10 a doctor walks in and says "what do you have for us"?  My response probably could have been a bit more civil, but I was in a bit of a grump by that stage.  I said "well, the foods there and ...".  Just then two female doctors walked in, one pregnant (not that that is really relevant) and one who was clearly the Alpha doctor.  So I thought to myself, three doctors at once, great, I'll start.  Here goes.

Clearly I couldn't go the whole presentation, even though it was short so I quickly introduced myself and what I did, mentioned a couple of functions of the lymphatic system and launched into conditions lymphatic drainage is used to treat.  I did use my slides for that and Alpha doctor was on me ... chronic fatigue?  What's that got to do with lymphoedema?  Well, nothing at all, but lymphatic drainage works to build the immune system for those with chronic illness.  Oh.  Acne?  How do you treat that?  Oh.  When I got to talking about lipoedema (which is the main thing I wanted to highlight as it's an under-diagnosed condition that affects up to 11% of the female population) she had lots of questions, which was great.  I got to explain lots about it.  Her final comment on lipoedema was "well, if it's a progressive condition why would patients come to see me about it?"  I tried my best to be calm ... "because they don't know they have it, because few medical people know about it, because if you can recognise it (I didn't dare suggest that she might be able to diagnose it, I thought that was something that doctors did for a living) you can help them understand the condition and what they can do to slow down it's progression".  Oh.

To be fair to Alpha doctor, she took some of my cards, a copy of the Lymphoedema Stories booklet and an info sheet for GPs on lipoedema that I had brought along with me.

All three doctors left and I hung around for another twenty minutes just in case.  The pregnant doctor came back in with lunch, she couldn't eat the sushi so went out to get her own.  I asked her if she thought any other doctors would be coming and she said probably not, she though I was pretty lucky to have got three!  Actually, that makes her sound mean but she was lovely and said it in a kind way.  And I appreciated her saying it.

I packed up my laptop and information and said my goodbye to the receptionist who again looked surprised.  "But there's one more doctor who may come".  "How long will she be" I asked, because I had back to back clients booked in from 1.30 and it was now 12.40 and I had a twenty-minute drive back to the clinic.  "Well, she has a patient in with her now and one more to see....".  I thanked her for her time and left.

Do I think it was worth doing?  Yes.  Even though Alpha doctor was aggressive in her manner she asked relevant questions and took information away with her.  Will something come of it?  Who knows.  Would I do it again?  Yes.  But next time I'll come with lunch!

2020 update: I never did this again and had no contact from the medical practice.

0 comments on “Trying to educate doctors”

  1. I swear I was reading about my experiences with several practices I have visited. It's a scam! My referrals did not increase after the talks. I think doctors are too busy to remember all the people who come around to see them unfortunately. Being a women's health physiotherapist hard building a consistent referral base. Most Gps still refer to a medical specialist first...but thanks for sharing. I was very empathetic to your experience.

    1. Thanks for your support Eleanor. In a way I'm glad it not just me who has had that experience. It's so hard finding a way to get the message through to GPs, I'll keep trying though.

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