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By Jessica T

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About this blog: I'm a late thirties mother of a ten-year-old and infant twins. My family moved to Menlo Park 6 years ago from Virginia - where I grew up, went to college, got married, had my first born, and got an MBA (in that order). I'm a manag...  (More)

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Why I want my healthcare providers to be my best friends

Uploaded: Oct 8, 2013
My hospital stays marking the birth of my newborn babies have been some of the happiest days of my life. To be sure, there are the physical discomforts of recovering from childbirth, anxiety about the baby's health, and the rollercoaster that is breastfeeding. But before going home to laundry and visitors and sleepless nights, you have several precious days and nights to revel in the familial joy that comes with creating a new human being.

The unsung heroines of my birth experiences have been the maternity nurses who ensure you are well on your way to recovery and are the expert professors of newborn care. I'm talking about you, RNs of Lucile Packard. (Once I get home from the hospital and settle into sleepless nights, the maternity nurses fade into the recesses of my memories - phantom angels, or "never again friends," a term my daughter coined for friends you make during short jaunts and don't see again.) But in those three or five days, who's on shift matters and makes your next twelve hours of this most important time. I was absolutely delighted to see my three favorite nurses (Xie, Andrea, and Jill) twice during my stay and sad to say goodbye to them. After all, they'd cared for me during one of the most intimate times in my family's life.

My in-laws brought me a beer (my first in 9 months) to have with my hospital dinner one night after the twins were born. We had been inundated with family all day, and I ate dinner after eight while imbibing a beloved IPA. Soon, I was buzzed, overwhelmed, emotional, and crying with my head down on the hospital tray. In came a nursing assistant to check on me. She didn't take my blood pressure, she just asked if I was OK and gave me an understanding hug.

Xie and Andrea spent loads of time with my ten year old, teaching her to swaddle the twins, oohing and ahhing over the outfits she dressed them in, and helping her develop the confidence to pick them up and tend to their needs - this was invaluable in the weeks to follow. They sent her home with a "Best Big Sister" certificate now proudly displayed on her bookshelf.

My pediatrician and obstetrician also fall into the category of people I wish I could call my best friends (without being weird). They were the first to demonstrate empathy about our infertility and the first to share our happiness when we finally became pregnant. Like me, they are working women trying to balance work and family and value how people are treated in a professional environment. They are funny and candid, and I love them.

Is it a strange statement on the estrangement of modern day life (particularly in a place with a pulse like Silicon Valley) that I want my healthcare providers as friends? I have instant trust in these caretakers that seems like the foundation of a promising friendship. There's no posturing, no guardedness - in fact, there's just a strong admiration for who they are and their chosen profession that makes me wish my maternity nurses could remain in my life beyond the day that I bundled my new family members in car seats and was wheeled out of the ward.

What about you? Have you experienced a similar fondness for your healthcare providers? If so - why?

Comments

Posted by Sally Torbey, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Oct 8, 2013 at 7:12 pm

I feel the same way about my obstetrician, who came in and attended the birth of all four of my babies that were born at Stanford, even though one daughter was born on a holiday. My pediatrician has been a huge support for 22 years. It is a sad day when the kids turn 18 and "age out" of her office. I keep asking if she'll just make an exception for my kids and be their doctor forever. My husband and I considered living abroad for a job, but I was reluctant. I just couldn't imagine giving birth or raising our kids without the reassuring presence of our doctors.


Posted by Jessica T, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 8, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Jessica T is a registered user.

Sally,

Thanks for your thoughts. Did you ever cross the doctor-patient barrier and become friends outside of the office with one of your doctors?

Jessica T.


Posted by A mom, a resident of Green Acres,
on Oct 8, 2013 at 8:41 pm

I can understand where you are coming from.

And yet...

Our child's pediatrician isn't the most cuddly person in the world. In fact, we chose him because he is the most honest and knowledgeable pediatrician we spoke with when we were looking. He's good with the kids, is willing to let me disagree with him - hold his ground when he thinks I'm wrong, and sometimes let me win when he thinks I have a point.

But when push comes to shove, he's in our corner, and has said, "I trust your judgment as parents," when the answers weren't clear. Since he's always so honest with us, that means something.

I don't really care if he's my best friend. He's been a great doctor in the ways that count.

Our allergist - also a great doctor - extraordinarily knowledgeable, kind, and also willing to go to bat for our child. Willing to take all the time necessary to answer all of our questions and concerns. Different personality, and sure, easier to see as a friend.

Is one better than the other? As long as the result of the care is that our child is healthy and the relationship is honest and supportive, I don't really need our care providers to be my best friends.


Posted by CherylBac, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Oct 8, 2013 at 9:39 pm

CherylBac is a registered user.

Thanks so much for sharing such a positive hospital experience. Your oldest sounds like she will be a wonderful older sister. Can't wait to read more about you and your family.


Posted by Sally Torbey, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Oct 8, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Our pediatrician actually has kids the same age as my two oldest and our kids went to school together, so it wasn't unusual for me to see her at parent network meetings, and sporting and school events, and yet I never wanted to call her by her first name even at school! She is very friendly and approachable, but I think I like maintaining a professional relationship with my doctors. I want to feel I can tell her anything that might come up, however embarrassing or difficult, and somehow I can do that better in a professional relationship than with someone who is a friend.
RE your post, another great thing about my obstetrician and pediatrician is they gave me official permission to leave the hospital about 4 hours after my fifth child was born. (I think they both knew I'd leave anyway!) I was happy they supported my preference to recuperate at home, but it was good to hear you had such positive post-partum experiences in the hospital.


Posted by victoria dougherty, a resident of another community,
on Oct 9, 2013 at 7:16 am

I feel the same way. I would give a kidney for some of the docs and nurses I've encountered throughout our child-related health care journey.


Posted by Jessica T, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 9, 2013 at 8:04 am

Jessica T is a registered user.

I agree with you guys - a good relationship with one's doctors is paramount since it safeguards the health of our children (hopefully) and their ability to offer objective counsel and support. And yet, my ob and pediatrician are the coolest...


Posted by Paul Bendix, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Oct 9, 2013 at 3:38 pm

I have decades with a disability and the physical medicine that goes with it...and there is no doubt that healthcare amounts to a series of relationships. Like any relationships, they do take work. I have to remember that in any medical exchange, I am part of the conversation. And when the conversation isn't going smoothly or I don't trust what's being said – I have the right to speak up.


Posted by Katie Shields, a resident of another community,
on Oct 9, 2013 at 9:31 pm

In my family's experience, healthcare providers can become friends! When my mom was in and out of Sequoia the doctors there were so kind to our whole family. We once had a doctor bring us pastries from Tartine after we had struck up a conversation with him the day before about our favorite bakery in the Mission.

Being in the hospital is the pits, I'm glad you had similar luck with your doctors and nurses. And, congrats on the blog!


Posted by Jessica T, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 10, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Jessica T is a registered user.

Thanks for sharing your personal story, Katie. That is a really touching example of how the human-side can crossover to the care-side of the equation.


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