opinion

'To every person on Twitter calling doctors dickheads, this is why you're so wrong.'

I read Jessie Stephen’s story about the latest Twitter hashtag trend for ‘Doctors Are Dickheads’ with a heavy heart. I am married to a general practitioner, a few of our friends are doctors and I was aggrieved to read such a sad story that negatively impacts thousands of caring healthcare professionals around the country who are trying their very best to do a very difficult job.

The doctors I know are smart people who enjoy their work and love their families. They are no different to the other educated people I know and am friends with, and they certainly do not deserve to be generalised as dickheads.

So often at mothers’ group, playgroup, the school gates, I hear people whingeing about their ‘stupid GP’ or ‘rude doctor’.

I get it.

Mums and dads with sick children are scared and worried about their kids. They don’t want to be told “it’s just a cold – give it seven days.” They want antibiotics and a diagnosis. They want healthy children and they don’t want to wait in a stifling surgery for hours on end. I understand all of that, I’ve been there myself but I also see it from the other side.

I saw my husband through years of study and exam stress. I worked as a cleaner and a nanny and enjoyed all sorts of cash-in-hand jobs to help us to pay our rent while he studied at university and through his first couple of years as an intern and a resident. It was stressful for us both as he worked nights and weekends and on-call and eventually decided to train as a GP. Now he mostly loves his job and gets great satisfaction from talking to and helping his patients.

Laura Jackel & family
Laura and her husband Jules with their two children. Image: Supplied

I have seen my husband exhausted after a long day listening to people and trying to help. He often sees people with mental health issues that are complex and not always possible to ‘solve’, much to his frustration and dismay. I have seen him upset when a patient he has known for years and likes very much is dying. I have seen him take calls at 7pm on a Friday night to rush to a nursing home to visit one of his elderly patients. I have read numerous cards and letters saying ‘thank you’ from people who are grateful for his help and understanding.

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I realise that, as in all industries and fields of work that not all doctors are great, and not all great doctors are great all of the time. You know why? Because they are human and because there are many baffling, complex and rare diseases that doctors cannot correctly diagnose all of the time.

I am writing this opinion piece - not to take away from or disrespect anyone who has been misdiagnosed or badly treated by a doctor and is now suffering the consequences. To Stevie Boebi and to those people I am truly sorry for what you have been through.

Those people have a right to be upset and to complain. There are systems and healthcare bodies to deal with genuine healthcare complaints and care for people like Stevie. However, the vitriol directed at the doctors who dare to reply and say, "wait a minute, this isn’t fair", is horrendous. Doctors have high rates of anxiety and depression for a reason. They have a very hard job and this simplistic, global ‘doctor bashing’ trend does not help.

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Laura and her 8yo son, Toby. Image: Supplied.

It is worth remembering that every day in every hospital around Australia surgeons perform life-saving operations. Oncologists prevent cancer from spreading. GPs diagnose depression and get someone on path to recovery.

Doctors are not dickheads, most are right now just turning up and doing their jobs - trying to keep people well. Some of them might even be saving lives.

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