Physicians: Heal Thyself (And Hopefully Us, Too)
If you follow my blogs, then you know that I speak a lot to the over-all experience of perimenopause and menopause. I also speak a lot to the actual physical symptoms. But, as any woman knows who has gone through perimenopause, it is far more than just hot flashes and night sweats. It certainly was for me, which is why I so often feel compelled to address the totality of the experience, rather than just the physical symptoms of perimenopause.
If you ask the average woman who has gone to a physician seeking help for perimenopause, she will likely tell you that she didn’t feel heard or understood. Yes, she may have had a prescription written for some type of medication (likely birth control pills or antidepressants) but, by and large, she will tell you that she felt her physician just “didn’t get it” and also didn’t seem too interested in wanting to, either.
That is because the average physician in Western medicine is trained to approach healthcare and practice medicine by treating a compartmentalized collection of physical and biological processes, which are separate from the person. The obvious result of this approach is a healthcare system which treats “symptoms” and not the whole patient, and never is this more apparent than when a woman is seeking help for perimenopause.
Thoughtful physicians will tell you that practicing medicine is truly an art, which has roots in science. However, as any frustrated patient will tell you, this tenet does not feel like the guiding force in modern Western medicine today.
There was a time when physicians approached medicine from a more holistic point of view, and understood that the art of practicing medicine is more than simply isolating physical symptoms. But, that paradigm shifted drastically when “objective science” and “Better Living through Chemistry” became the driving forces behind healthcare and medicine.
Shall we condemn then, the medical community as a whole, for being out of touch and failing to adequately address our health concerns? I say, “No.” Because I believe there are plenty of physicians who are equally as frustrated with the machinery of the medical system, and the way in which it fosters a boiler-plate, check-box mentality approach to medicine.
As a former tax accountant, I certainly have an appreciation for methodical approaches to problem solving. It is far easier to run down a check-list of symptoms and follow a flow chart to a diagnosis, than it is to actually listen to a patient. But as a patient, and as a woman who has been through perimenopause, I find this approach sorely lacking and deeply frustrating. And that sound you hear is the collective “amen, sister” from the countless number of other patients and women who feel the same.
But let me also say this: I am in no way standing on self-righteous holy ground when I point out this problem. Because as we all know, Monday morning quarterbacking is a far easier game to play. It is also true that deep, systemic problems, such as the ones we have in our medical system, are never solved by simply complaining about them.
However, unless we actually begin talking about these problems, there will never be any motivation to find solutions either. And frankly, who better to talk about it than the women and the patients who are not happy with the healthcare they are getting?
Magnolia Miller is a certified healthcare consumer advocate in women’s health and a women’s freelance health writer and blogger at The Perimenopause Blog.