Every contact ought to count

I’ve just attended my annual diabetic eye screening.
Like many others, I drove 15 miles to my local hospital. Last year it was local, but apparently they could not do that this time.

10.00 Arrive at reception. Right on time.
Despite near I possibility of funding somewhere to park.
Good morning, I’ve come for my eye screening.
Oh right, just take a seat please.

10.20 “Mr Rook?”
I go through.
Please sit in that chair.
Quick explanation of why I had to come to town this year.
Then the drops. And stinging. And tears.
Then a 15 minute wait outside.

Called back in.
We do the photos.
We look at the shots briefly.
Nothing obvious there, but you will get a copy of the full report.
Thanks for coming.

So nothing wrong with that, was there.
Straightforward, clinical, transactional.
She was very polite, had a bit of a smile all the time.

What about me as a patient, as a person, a diabetic who sees a medical person about it very rarely?
What did I feel this morning?
Wonder if my control has been good enough.
Distance vision has gone a bit blurred in the last months and my blood sugar has been a bit higher.

Was there an opportunity for me to raise my own feelings or concerns?
I felt like I had to do what I was told and not disturb the routine and efficiency of this woman.
Was she the tiniest bit interested in me? In my worries about eyesight?
This was a business transaction.

Should she have been?
People with long term contradictions do not have many opportunities to talk about their concerns or successes, their failures to stick with the regime, or whether their condition has changed subtly.
We may see medics pretty frequently if we have lots of conditions, but each is usually kept separate, and staff don’t often want to talk about other related conditions.

They have their job to do, their speciality.
I am there for a specified purpose.
Today it was an eye photograph.
But it was an opportunity for a contact, a talk, a self-management reassurance.

When we are treated as a unit of work we feel small, helpless.
We leave and reflect and feel guilty for not asking questions.
We feel annoyed that we did not tell them to treat us as people.
We also think that if we did we would make them annoyed and be treated like a naughty child, or another of the moaning people who complain all the time.

I really appreciate what my medical people do for me. But gratitude, for a service I pay for, and which they are paid to provide, should not mean that I have no right to expect to be treated empathetically as a real person.

Ask me how I am?
Take two minutes to make contact.
Ask me how I feel my condition is?
If I have any changing symptoms.
Ask if I have anything I want to ask about how my eyes might develop or change.

Just talk to me and take a few minutes.
I won’t see you again for a year, and it probably won’t be you.

This self-management is great.
As long as you don’t need support with it.

Supported self-management would be better.
Help us.
Support us.
Provide us with opportunities to talk without feeling shame or guilt.

Every contact is important for a patient.
Make it count.

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