*itch Session: Imagine Me, Being Ignored by My Doctor!

Imagine, me – a nurse being ignored by a physician! I know that this may be par for the course during the long career of a professional nurse with physician interaction. It was rampant - especially back in the day! Alas, it is now 2023 and I continue to be amazed that it still can happen!

Why did I have to find a new dermatologist?

Let me start at the beginning of this experience… This particular medical practice has long provided care for my family and myself. After several years, our favorite dermatologist left the practice for family reasons and we truly mourned the loss of her skills. I tried to find as close a substitute for her as possible and have been with my current dermatologist ever since.

What was my first appointment like?

I approached my visits as I had previously. Instead of the warm and friendly rapport I was used to - I was greeted by a rather cool personality and bedside manner. This practitioner was extremely well educated, with many credentials and degrees beyond her name. A veritable alphabet soup of scholarliness all reflected on the many diplomas hanging proudly on the walls. Lots of knowledge however does not always mold an empathetic soul within. Quality bedside manner comes with experience and comfort with one’s own personality traits. My health care provider’s main goal was to observe for any areas that hinted at skin cancer in all its possible manifestations. Of course, I was grateful for that stealth mission of hers; however, I did have more than skin cancer on my mind, (and my skin!).

What if it wasn't just dry skin?

At first, when I would mention the scaly blotchiness on various areas of my body, it was met with a dismissal of sorts; “It’s dry skin, just moisturize!” Appointment after appointment, when that remedy wasn’t helping very much, I would continue to repeat my concerns, about what I knew was eczema, without eliciting any further interventions for the “dry skin.” It seemed to pale in comparison to the search for skin cancers and unfortunately, there were many to find. So, between the crusade for the biopsies and the surgeries, my ever-growing eczema, AKA the “dry skin,” was demoted for time and again.

Why didn't I find a new doctor?

You may ask, “Why did I not switch to another health care provider?” I asked myself the same question many times early on. I continued with this doctor as her medical skills are always well beyond compare, despite her being distant, aloof, and seemingly unable to hear me whenever I complained about my eczema symptoms and how I was feeling.

Did our relationship change?

Eventually, with a lot of trials and misses, her coolness warmed and the tightened bedside manner loosened with our conversation. As we got to know each other over time, our dialogue would become a give and take, almost like friends rather than doctor to patient relationship. I believe it was my attempt at using kind understanding toward her human-ness which was key to the progress. The hard outer shell began to wear away with each visit. This twist of fate allowed for her to actually hear my needs, to listen to my words; not only what my body is showing her. Reminding a physician that there is a patient – a real person, inside the body being examined seems like it should be unnecessary. And it absolutely should be! Regrettable, in the real world we live in, it is not an easy task. For the docs delivering the care and for us receiving less of it. Even in 2023!

Was I finally diagnosed with eczema?

Gratefully, my appointments changed! A diagnosis of atopic dermatitis was finally given! Smiles and mindful repartee start off each visit. Treatments are pursued; pictures are taken of progress or lack thereof. Time is taken to communicate and exchange with me! A discussion ensues about what my life has been like, personally, as well as, medically since the last visit. All this before delving into a whole-body examination – “dry skin” and all it means!

At this point, I hope I never need to find another dermatologist!

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