One scenario of the new medical model is that offices schedule patients with the a Physician’s Assistant (PA) or Nurse Practitioner (NP) when you call to request an appointment with a doctor. My guess is that this model of doctor’s office delivery of services has been created to change the practice of patients having to wait for months to get in to see the specialist or even your primary care physician. The first time I saw the new NP at my primary care physician’s office several months ago, she talked to me as if I didn’t know what digital or virtual meant. “I teach online courses, honey,” is what I wanted to say to her as I sat in a chair facing her and later in my car after the appointment. I was trying to figure out what had happened with the communication during the appointment. Why did she think she had to explain what “virtual” mean to me? Why did she seem to be speaking to me as if I was a child?
My primary care doctor talks to me about how my body works or isn’t working properly, or about the sequence of events involved in following a regimen of care for a condition I’ve presented to her as if I’m a cognitively alert human being. But this new NP, she looked at me, my dark brown skin, and probably at my age, and must have decided that I needed to be handled as if I was too old and too slow to understand or remember anything she was going to tell me about my health and what I needed to do about it. I’m going to call her the New Practitioner (NP).
The New Practitioner explained that she was going to send a prescription to the pharmacy by computer as if I’d never seen anything that remotely resembled a computer. “You know, it’s virtual” she chirped and although she didn’t pat my hand, I got the feeling that if she’d been sitting next to me, she would have. I hope I said “I know what virtual is,” but the truth is, I think I was so surprised at not being able to figure out why she thought she needed to explain something so basic that I sat there and just looked at her.
So, when I had to call my primary for an appointment a few weeks ago and her calendar was too full to see me until several weeks out and they offered an appointment with the New Practitioner, I accepted it out of need. And at the same time the thought “I don’t want to see her,” spoke loudly in my head. I needed to be seen to get advice about an injury, so I couldn’t wait for a few weeks. I gave in to the offer of an appointment.
I was pleasantly surprised with this appointment as the NP didn’t talk to me as if I was hard of hearing or understanding, or old and therefore not with it. She didn’t use an alienating communication style at all, which means she didn’t try to dumb down what she had to say. She smiled a lot, asked excellent questions and listened to everything I shared with her about my health. I had to let go of my prejudice toward her based on my first appointment with her earlier in the year.
I took this experience as an opportunity to be honest with myself about the possibility that people can change. Perhaps people and situations don’t always stay the same. That time really can heal all wounds and provide learning experiences, teachable moments. That perhaps even though some can have a preconceived notion of who I am when they meet me for the first time and I can have the same type of notion about them, our notions can change over time. And perhaps life experiences that have nothing to do specifically with either of us can change us before we are thrown together again at a later date by circumstance.