Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Men explain things to Rebecca Solnit

In honor of this awesome article on TomDispatch.com (Men explain things to Rebecca Solnit), I will describe a recent health care experience that made me think about differences in medical care that I may be experiencing based on the gender of the health care professional.

Today I went to the dermatologist's office for a followup visit about a plantar wart -- a wart that grows inward rather than outward because it's positioned on the bottom of your foot where you're constantly treading on it.

I saw a physician's assistant this time, instead of a doctor. Recently I've formed a healthy bias against seeing a PA instead of a physician, but that was for my annual checkups with the gynecologist. For that, you better believe I want to see the doctor. This was for a mere wart, which is treated with blasts of superchilly nitrogen -- a therapy I feel confident that I could even apply myself, if necessary. So I saw the PA today and noticed a few subtle differences between this visit and my last one.

1. For the last visit, I had a male doctor. The PA was female.

2. For both visits, I was sitting on the examining table with my foot in my lap (sole upward) when the health care professional came into the room. The doctor asked me to lie down on my stomach with the foot upraised. Gesturing to my foot and leg, I said, "So this won't work?" He said, "No -- just, mechanically, on your stomach is the better way." It's also a posture that doesn't let me see the action.

I expected the same thing from the PA, but she said, "No, that's fine," and treated the foot just as it was while I looked on.

3. The doctor stopped freezing the wart when I made a slight sound ("Ooh"). I told him, "No, that's okay -- go ahead," and he said, "No, that's fine, that's enough."

The PA said, "I know, ouch!" and kept on freezing it, and then after a pause she blasted it again for good measure.

4. I asked the doctor if I could have a band aid, and he said I didn't need it but asked one of the nurses to get me one.

The PA, unprompted, asked me if I wanted a band aid, and when I asked, "Do I need it?" said, "No, but often people want one anyway!"

These differences made my experience with the PA more satisfying, and I think that I received better medical care, honestly. I think the first appointment was a waste of time, because the doctor didn't really blast the nitro long enough. I liked being able to see what the healthcare professional was doing. I felt like the PA was more interested and in tune with me as a patient.

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