Eight things I learned from my tonsillectomy

Tags: patients, family physician

By Janet Hurley, M.D.

Having been a patient not too long ago, I am convinced that doctors should be patients more often. As we continue to talk more in health care about “patient-centeredness” and the “patient experience,” I have a few thoughts on things I learned during my convalescence period after a tonsillectomy in 2009.

    1. My surgeon, my anesthesiologist, and the surgical center staff were GREAT. As providers, the things we do become routine to us, but to patients they are extraordinary. Taking the time to explain a procedure carefully and thoughtfully can make a big difference.
    2. Follow directions. Patient handouts have important information in them and the treatment team knows what they’re doing. I must remember to listen to their advice and review the patient materials when I have questions.
    3. Don’t be your own doctor! If you have questions about medications or symptoms, ASK SOMEONE ELSE. You may choose to be a highly educated patient, but not your own doctor.
    4. I am not too tough for pain medications. While I dislike the mental fogginess they create, I had to keep in mind steps I prescribe to my patients—maintain better hydration, better nutrition, and keep my throat moist—to make myself more comfortable.
    5. I will never even think about accessing my Electronic Medical Record from home until fully off narcotics. Impairment was obvious.
    6. When on narcotics, I communicate better with my fingers than my tongue. You can’t rush recovery, even when you know you have important work to do. E-mail communication with others kept me connected when my speech was slurred and my throat hurt.
    7. I have great clinic coverage partners. I had no worries about who would check my messages, approve refill requests, and see my patients when I was out. We must remember that good patient care during such times requires that we receive help from our colleagues.
    8. Don’t undervalue the significance of family and friends. I am grateful to my husband who took care of our kids and took care of me, and the friends and neighbors who looked for ways to help out during my recovery. It’s okay to lean on those closest to you in times of need!

Janet Hurley, M.D., is a family physician at Trinity Clinic in Whitehouse, Texas.

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