The Doctor-Patient Relationship: Part Two

Last week I wrote about the Doctor-Patient Relationship of the broken, outdated, patriarchal health care system of The Old Medicine.  This week, I’m going out on a limb to suggest a new kind of Doctor-Patient Relationship, the kind I practice and I hope others in the new Pink Medicine do too. Here goes nothing.

It’s All About Collaboration

As doctor and patient, you and I are entering into a partnership. I will not give you orders because we will be collaborating, and your voice is as important as mine, if not more so. Because we will be partners, I feel it is important to clarify and agree upon what our relationship will entail, what you can expect of me, and what I expect of you.

I am here to support you, guide you, offer you tools, and support your process, but I will not “fix” you – for I don’t believe you are broken.

You Can Heal Yourself

I believe you already have within you the power to heal yourself. When we meet, I will hold up the mirror so you can see that you already have within you all that you need to have all that you want. This mirror will help you see what you need in order to optimize your wellness and happiness, so you can live the most joyous, vibrant, fulfilling, sexy, healthy life possible. Although I will support you in every way I can by educating you, giving you choices, answering your questions, and making recommendations, you are here to be the force behind your own healing. The body is made to self-diagnose and self-repair, and my job is to help you activate those self-healing superpowers. But you must do the heavy lifting yourself.

If you are not ready, willing, or able to heal yourself, I will be here to nurture and support you, but the process will be less powerful, with less dramatic results. 

I’m Not Blaming You

I’m not blaming you for being sick, depressed, or otherwise in need of healing. I am not suggesting that you brought this upon yourself (and if you did, I will treat you with compassion, not judgment.)

I’m also not suggesting that every illness or problem will be cured, either by your hands or by mine. Sometimes the Master Plan requires that illness – or even death – is inevitable. I believe that healing and curing are different, and that one can happen without the other. Although our goal will always be to achieve both, we will both understand that we must set goals, but release attachment to outcomes and surrender to Divine will.  In this very surrender, healing lies.

We Are Equals

Although I spent many years training to earn the right to be your doctor, I am not “better” than you, and as such, I will treat you as a cherished equal.  In order for our partnership to be successful, we must – absolutely must – respect each other. You will not put me on a pedestal, and I will not look down upon you.  I will speak to you when we are both dressed and only leave you naked in the brief moments when I need to examine you. I will respect your privacy, honor your modesty, and invite you to put your clothes back on as soon as I’ve done what I need to do.

I accept that my time is not more valuable than yours. As doctor and patient, we will respect each other’s time. I will not make you wait for your appointment, and you will not be late. We must be present, fully and completely, during our time together. This means we will both turn off cell phones, let go of distractions, and focus all of our energy on your health and healing.

I Trust Your Intuition

I will call upon my knowledge, experience, and resources to offer you recommendations for preventative care, diagnostic workups, and treatment plans, but I will also invite you to listen to the intuition of your healing inner wisdom, your body, and your soul. I will explain why I make the recommendations I do, but I will always respect your autonomy, without judgment. If you choose not to follow my advice, we will negotiate another plan that resonates with your intuition.  If I am unable to provide the care you need or desire, I will release you to follow your heart or find another provider without taking it personally.  You will understand if our current medical-legal climate makes me cover my ass sometimes, and you won’t take it personally. Ultimately, the choices for how we proceed will always be yours, whether I agree with the plan or not.

I will not take it personally if you question me.  I promise to respect you, guide you, and help you discover the healing power within you. In exchange, I ask that you follow through on any treatment plan we agree upon. If our treatment plan does not resonate with your body’s wisdom, or if you have financial constraints, please tell me so that we can modify our plan. Follow through is key. We must walk this path together in order to manifest the results I know we can achieve.

I Believe In You

I believe in your capacity to heal from any illness, trauma, or loss, even if other doctors have deemed you “incurable.” I believe the human body is more mysterious than we will ever truly understand.  As such, I will never view you as hopeless or broken, and I will hold sacred space for the whole, perfect, healed individual I know you to be, even in the midst of ill health. I will tell it to you straight so you understand science and statistics, but I will never tell you hope is gone, because miracles happen, and you have the power to enable them.

We Must Be Honest With Each Other

We have to be open and tell the truth, even if it is painful or uncomfortable. I will promise you confidentiality, and you must promise to tell me anything I need to know in order to provide the best medical care possible. We must trust that we are safe together, so we can explore things that may be tough to explore. We must open our hearts to the loving kindness and compassion that is a necessary part of any healing relationship.

I Am Only Human

As my patient, you will understand that I am a mere mortal, prone to mistakes, flaws, insecurities, ego, fatigue, tears, and distractions in my personal life.  You will not put me on a pedestal, and you will cut me some slack if I’m less than perfect, just as I will do with you. If I let you down, you will tell me gently, rather than bottling it up and storing it as resentment against me. In return, I will share with you how I feel about our relationship. If at any point, one of us cannot meet the other’s needs, we are free to dissolve this relationship at any time with loving kindness and compassion.

I’m Doing The Best I Can, And So Are You

As doctor and patient, we agree to accept that we’re both doing the best we can at any given time, and we won’t always get it right. We commit to open communication, mutual respect, a belief in the infinite capacity for whole health and healing, and a dedication to cherishing the process and viewing health issues as an opportunity to seek higher ground.

We acknowledge that, between you and me, anything is possible.

Are you on board? If so, sign here.

X marks the spot,

Your Doctor

One Doctor’s Response

I showed this agreement to a doctor I respect, who has a big, open heart and genuinely cares about his patients. I could see his chest rise and fall as he read it, and when he finished, he looked up at me with great big puppy eyes and said, “Lissa, I love it. But I don’t trust that I could do this. I’d want to. But could I? I’d hate to promise something I couldn’t follow through on.”

I asked if he wanted a copy so he could give it to his patients. He hesitated, furrowed his brow, looked down at the floor, tapped his pen on his knee, looked at me again before averting my eyes, and said, “No. Thank you, but no. I’m not ready yet, but maybe some day I will be.”

A Call To Action

What if you printed this out and handed it to your doctor? Would you have the guts? If you’re a health care provider, how does this strike you? If you’re a patient, how do you think your doctor would respond if you handed her a copy of this? How would you respond if your doctor gave this to you?

If we’re gonna change the system, we have to work together- so this is my call to action for you! Send this post to your doctor. Send it to your friends and ask them to send it to their doctors, dentists, acupuncturists, therapists, and anyone else who is part of their healing team. Let’s invite both patients and health care providers to step up to the plate and reclaim the heart of medicine.

Are you on board? Tell me what you think of this Doctor-Patient Agreement of Pink Medicine!

With faith in my profession,

Lissa Rankin, MD

Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.commotivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.

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  • Elaine

    This is really great !

  • Sellingthebeachsandiego

    It would be wonderful !  So often one becomes a “victim” of the medical process… in particularly when in Hospital and Helpless due to “intravenous” drugs to “help your situation”. Many “Professional”Health Care professionals, and employee’s carry their own Control Issue’s and if you do not comply, or disagree you”re considered a “Difficult Patient”.  Well, pray thanks to God/your guardian angel or whomever your Spiritual guidance comes from, if  this comment is tacked on you as a patient. Having fought a recent 4 year bout with Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma,with a pre-existing Lupus condition (30 years)a total of 5 weeks in-hospital ( two different hospitals in different cities) I know from whence I speak. I am still here 2 two years out from that one and a half year treatment” experience because I was considered a “difficult patient”.I am absolutely convinced had I not been proactive and listening to that “Inner voice” at all times, I would not be typing this memo. Sad to say.. but reality.  I recommend anyone entering a Hospital, for any treatment or surgery, have someone with you 24 – 7 that has your interest as no 1 at all times; ”  I quote Dennis Quaid on that one -same Hospital his babies almost died in as a result of professional incompetence” ..I recommend do it!  Check your medications, do not tolerate any form of are the patient, you are there because you are somehow unwell. You are there to “live” not die.. I was given the Last Rites on three occasions, I was pressured by nursing staff to give them my living will (in spite of telling them my Dr. had it… they were insisting a copy… My response was/// I am a “full code”… I do not want to donate my body parts, and do not want to be a “research experiment”  I cannot express how many times I was forced to say the words, I AM HERE TO CONTINUE LIVING – NOT TO DIE.

  • Olwen Anderson

    Love your updated manifesto Lissa, especially as it includes participation by both the doctor and the patient. I’d like to use a modified version of this on my web site to help prospective clients learn about how our working relationship will be.

  • Animilik

    As a physician of Asian Medicine,This has a good energy. It is important to understand how our patients have been raised, what cultures they have been raised in, what is acceptable, what is possible for them to adhere to. What they have been raised to believe is their role, and the role of a physician, the role of religion. I think what is important, is how to convey faith to our patients, that we are here to help them to heal themselves. Perhaps in a less obvious role than you suggest…