woman overhearing people talking behind her

Whispers In the Hallway

I was recently at a Dermatology appt to get my skin checked, as any patient with IBD should do every year.

Overhearing a doctor in the hallway

Something happened that I wasn’t sure what to do. I was waiting in one of the rooms and I overheard my doctor and my nurse loudly speaking about me. It wasn’t just a passing conversation. She went into depth about some of the infections that I had previously had in different organs.

I felt uncomfortable, knowing that the patient they were loudly talking about was me. Were they saying negative things about me? No. Were they talking about my personal medication history? Yes. And I had no idea what to say when they both entered the room after I had heard every word they had just discussed loud and clear. Were they violating HIPAA? Not necessarily. But for some reason, I was embarrassed. They had talked about quite a few of my medical complications and history for a period of time, and at great length.

Feeling understood as a patient

At that time, I had decided to keep hush, because the things I heard them talking about actually made me feel more understood as a patient. I knew, from hearing them communicate with one another, that they truly understood my medical history and both had remembered me very well from previous appointments.

I've heard mean comments from doctors before

But over the past few weeks, I can’t help but think more about it. What would I have done if they were speaking negatively about me? It’s happened to me before at specialists. The whispers and even some mean comments. Yet, I never confronted them. I simply thought, “I’m just here to get checked out and go home, not to make anybody mad or uncomfortable.”

What if they had gone through my medical history and gotten part of it wrong? There was a time in the past where my primary physician had a med student along with him for the day and before entering the room, I heard him tell the student “She has ulcerative colitis”. I have Crohn's Disease. While it’s not a huge deal, it can make a very big difference in lab values you look at, what organs you may want to have imaging done to, and what to look for next. While this wasn’t my GI or another specialist, I wanted to make sure both knew I was attentive and wanted to be vocal. Because to me, it’s a big deal.

At what point do you say something? Has this happened to you? What have you done, if you have experienced this?

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