Patients As Bullies


Patient bullies come in four types: the attorneys, the Ph.D.s, the drug seekers, and everyone else.

I am not saying that nice attorneys don’t exist. I just haven’t met many in the *real* world, outside of the blogosphere, and the ones I have met I am worried might be a figment of my imagination… (Stacy, if you are reading this, I am not talking about your husband here!) These people are particularly distressing because they know they can make your life miserable in a field that is outside of your comfort zone, a realm known only to the privileged few, and they are not afraid to use the threat.

Ph.D.s are interesting. The vast majority are super nice, but there is a subset who are super full of themselves and make it exceedingly difficult to like them. They would probably be unpleasant people no matter what their level of education or job field, but somehow that doctorate gives them some validation and BOOM! they know that they know everything and the rules of civility no longer apply to them. I have had enough bad experiences with this group that I cringe every time I get a new one as a patient. They particularly like female physicians, you see, because they perceive we are easier to intimidate.

Drug seekers are fun. Sometimes. Most think they are subtle and reasonable in their requests but addiction does things to your mind and to your perceptions and it makes good people do bad things. You can smell them a mile away, so to speak. I am usually more understanding of these folks as they really are not in their right mind.

Then there is everyone else.

For the next few days, I will tell you some stories…


104 thoughts on “Patients As Bullies

  1. I’ve been in I/T for 30+ years. One day my older sister, exasperated after dealing with the I/T people at her work, called me to ask if people went into my line of work because they couldn’t relate to other human beings. After a second she added “excepting you, of course!!”

    Liked by 3 people

  2. looking forward to these stories. i worked in a medical office for awhile and have my own story about each of these types, though my lawyer story end’s well and truly funny. the phd is the worst story because a drug seeker doesn’t know better. if i miss out i might just link back in a later post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was often labeled as a drug seeker (or at least treated that way.) Most of the medication I sought was not actually a narcotic because I don’t like feeling altered but, I guess I did have my own interior hopes that a pill could fix things.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. “but somehow that doctorate gives them some validation and BOOM! they know that they know everything and the rules of civility no longer apply to them”—I suspect the same is often said about those of us who get the MD degree. πŸ˜‰ Some of the stuff written about doctors out there is enough to make me want to crawl in a hole and cry. I want to shout: “But I’m a pediatrician. We’re nice. Really!” (As are family practitioners.) πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Ugh, it makes me so sad to see that lawyers made your list. Obviously they have to make a list about difficult people, but I can vouch that the majority of lawyers really are nice. And they really can help you out if you need it. I went into law in a very non-traditional way — wanting to work on health policy, and after having worked as a nurse. But if anyone asks what I do, I first say “well right now I’m at home with my kids, but I’m also a nurse and I went to law school.” It softens the blow. πŸ™‚

    But really, I promise I’m not difficult and I do NOT bully. I do ask lots of questions as a patient though. And I’m also a huge advocate when necessary, but I do it NICELY!

    Liked by 1 person

    • One more thing….my husband is getting his phd (at a Texas school btw)! YIKES!!! What does that mean for us as a couple? But he’s getting it in engineering, and it’s in a field of engineering that is industry-driven, NOT academic-driven. I do think some types of phds can be very bully-ish and know-it-all-ish, but a lot of the engineering world now demands people to have their doctorate so there’s not a lot of choice. (He also graduated with his master’s when the economy was in the toilet, so he was making far less than he should have been making. So he figured that by getting more education, his salary history would be erased and he could get a job with a (hopefully!) better economy.)

      One thing I’ve noticed about my husband is that, because he knows so much about what he does, he is VERY aware when he doesn’t know anything about something. So he’s very reverent to physicians and will do exactly what they tell him to do.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Jumping on the Ph.D. bandwagon, I dreaded getting them as clients back in my real estate sales days. One insisted I call him “Doctor” throughout the entire transaction. Really. Meanwhile my neurosurgeon client asked to be called Jack. I had an ER doc as a client once. He was awesome. I never knew anyone better able to make a decision than he. He’d walk into a house and say “no” immediately which was absolutely great. Why waste time, right? And then off we’d go. When he saw the right house it was off to write a contract, lickety-split! No fooling around.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. In your post you mention four kinds of patient as bullies: the attorneys, the Ph.D.s, the drug seekers, and everyone else. So does that mean, since “everyone else” is one of the four types, that every patient is a bully? Probably not, but here’s another type for your consideration: Google bullies. These are patients who spent several days before their doctor appointment reading up every bit of information available about whatever it is that ails them. They have learned how to recognize symptoms, what the best treatment is, and everything they could possibly need to know. And then they go to see the doctor believing that they know more that their doctors do, even though their doctors spent years to become doctors while they, these Google bullies, spent hours on the internet. I know this type of patient because I am one of them.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Oh, the suspense! πŸ˜‰
    On a more serious note, I really respect you and medical professionals like you.
    I don’t think I’d be able to spend more than 5 minutes in the same room with a PhD or attorney. Of course, I know there are exceptions…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Looking forward to the stories. I’m kind of surprised by the lawyer reference. Maybe I’m one of the few people who have had mostly good experiences. My lawyer client/patients were pretty good. Now the MBAs… At the podiatrist’s office our terrorists were two types of little old ladies. These were definitely not your tea-cozy sweethearts! I’ll make a bowl of popcorn and wait for the entertainment… πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  10. In my experience, at least some perceptions about the dangers/difficulties of treating lawyer patients may be in the doctor’s mind. Certainly very few lawyers I know who come seeking medical help for pain and illness try to strong-arm themselves into getting special attention with implied threats of med-mal suits. On the other hand, many doctors — not you, of course — treat non-lawyer/phd patients as know-nothings who have nothing of use to say about how they feel and why they may be feeling it. When I was a late-middle-age woman without any special professional qualifications living in a small town south of Boston, the local internist kindly pooh-poohed my thoughts that some of my painful and life-disrupting symptoms might be due to overmedication for an unrelated condition. What did I know? Only when I had acquired a J.D. and coveted job in a major Boston law firm while his own daughter was struggling to get a decent score on the LSAT did he suddenly listen to me and decide I was right! Same patient, same symptoms, same (over-)medication. Go figure.

    Liked by 2 people

    • There is certainly a fear there and perhaps a deference that some JDs get used to maybe. In my office I want everyone to be treated on the same level as my mamma or a collegue. That rubs some people who are used to moving to the front of the line wrong. It was actually an experience with an attorney yesterday that got me thinking about this. She was so awful to my staff and then left in a huff. I never even got the chance to meet her and form my own opinion. Granted these are over generalizations and I DO have attorneys as friends who really are class acts (though we give each other a hard time). I also should say that my blogging friends are all exceptions to any of these rules. You in particular. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Married to a PhD clinical psych, I’ve noticed that MDs, DOs, PhDs, and JDs butt heads when one is in the position of expertise and the other is in need of the expertise. For example, MDs put their dukes up whenever they see a psych, especially if their spouse forced them to go πŸ˜€ I guess it is hard for them to see themselves as needy.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Your post reminded me of something that occurred in our pre -op area a month ago. It’s a nod to physicians:
    A patient’s family started bullying a nurse because she wouldn’t call the OR to have a surgeon come out to answer more questions. They accused the nurse of being racist. Then they got loud. The surgeon came out. He went toe to toe with the son and pointed out all the questions he answered in the pre-op visit. The race card was pulled again. This always soft spoken Md then said “My father-in-law is darker than you.”
    The case was cancelled and an hour later the surgeon gathered all of us to, get this, apologize for his patient’s behavior and tell us how much he appreciated us.
    * I don’t know what category the patient/family was in, I’ve always just wanted to share this story!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. You know Doctor, I am discovering that in my line of work, I am meeting the same folks you are meeting. And if I ever sat down and had coffee with you….I would be able to sit there and say “hmmmm….hmmmmmm …..YES……hmmmmmmmm…….” and totally get this.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I can’t imagine what you experience. I overheard my doc talking with a patient when I was there last. This guy took 12 percocete (sp?) a day and T 3’s on top of that. (The patient talked loud). The doc was trying to tell him that he is addicted and the patient was adamant that he needed them for his pain and he wasn’t addicted.
    I’ll be looking forward to what you share.

    Oh and narcissists…there’s no reasoning with. Gah.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. The bully I’m presently “encountering” would fall into the rubric of folks whom I would call “professional victims”. It’s a very sobering and unsettling experience, because a “victim” requires an “aggressor” / “victimizer” . . .


      • πŸ˜€
        Thanks for sharing your wonderful sense of humour, Victo, it’s much appreciated.

        Actually, a very big part of me would love for you to delete my previous comment . . . I don’t usually write in the heat of the moment like that (and here I go again). The irony in what I said is not lost on me. Feeling “bullied” is very similar, maybe identical to, feeling “victimized”. In fact I’ve been lucky to seldom having felt myself to be either. (Or maybe I forget, conveniently.) The episode mentioned was more like . . . feeling stricken by what seemed to me to be continued strong overreaction to an action of mine which I took with zero malicious intent. But of course, the other person felt “stricken” too, and by me!
        How easily mutual misunderstanding can balloon into severe mistrust, apparent enmity; a sudden feeling of needing to defend myself, into the perception of being bullied / victimized by the other. It almost makes me laugh out loud (or throw my hands up) when I realize (yet again) that we are all just protecting ourselves, or more like, our ideas or (sub)conscious beliefs about or images of ourselves / the “identities” we identify ourselves with / our very “dignity”. But striking out, acting maliciously out of fear—unconscious or otherwise—is bad, even if its roots are understandable. It can destroy lives, even many lives indeed, in the case of wars. But surely, as an act of self-defence . . . if your life really seems to be in immediate danger?! (But is it, really?) Oh, sigh. I just don’t know. Too many questions.
        I guess everysinglebody needs to commit to increasing self-knowledge and knowledge of / empathy with the “others” in life. We may be more alike than we know.

        Feel free to delete this little series of comments if it doesn’t really contribute to the conversation. I dread waking up tomorrow and seeing I actually wrote all this.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. I have a doctor friend who had a patient who complained of constant knee pain.

    After an exam found nothing wrong, he suggeted that her weight (260 lbs.) might have something to do with her pain and recommend dietary changes and exercise.

    Of course this was unacceptable, unprofessional, and insulting so, of course, she called a lawyer.

    From what I’ve heard, many patients aren’t addicts or drug seekers, so to speak, but they do want a magic pill or potion that will make their pain go away without them having to make any inconvenient life changes.

    Liked by 2 people

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