I have a big problem as a doctor – I take complications very seriously and personally. I always think it is my fault. I forget that objectively I spent 11 years after college learning that the human body is a frail, faulty creature and sickness happens to it, especially after surgery.

Patients have trouble interpreting their symptoms, their healthy past-history gets in the way of realizing that a problem illness is befalling them after surgery. Most problems can be ‘nipped in the bud” early, and prevented from becoming big ones. I hate it when communications between me and the patient prevent that from happening. I have recently started calling all my post-op patients for at least 2 days after their surgeries, and I want to talk to THE patient, not their spouse or other caregiver. I find that I can’t count on anyone else to hear things correctly.

My nurses do a great job relaying info to me, but I have to be the one to interpret it. I really wonder how doctors take care of their patients when other partners are rendering some of the post-op care. The bottom line is that the patient HAS to take some responsibility and try to accurately relay info to me so I can interpret it seriously and effectively. WE don’t really want complications, and if we get them, we want to deal with them quickly. They are an expected and normal part of post-op course, except in my mind. I have to keep remembering that for my own sanity.