bedside manner


Today, I had a routine checkup with a doctor in Manhattan.

I was told at one point to get partially undressed and wait for the doctor’s “epiphany” (for him to appear and examine me).

The doctor told me to sit on the examining table. He put a stethoscope on my back and told me to breathe in and out.

Then, he put the stethoscope on the front of my chest. “Should I breathe in and out?” I asked.

“Be quiet,” he said, testily.

Why should I be expected to know what would be obvious to a doctor: that you must be still when he is listening to your heart but not one’s lungs? Or be blamed for getting mixed up when he was just telling me to breathe in and out?

How many times over the years have I experienced this kind of rude, abrupt treatment from overbearing doctors? Their training does not include how to deal with people as PERSONS. Actually, I think they are wary of people and don’t particularly like them. They want as little human interaction as possible.

I worked in a couple of hospitals for several years as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. I realized that the most important thing in taking care of people in a medical setting is treating them like people and not rushing them or ignoring them. (And, listening to them.)


— Roger W. Smith

   January 27, 2017

About Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; classical music; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. Besides (1), a personal site, he also hosts websites devoted to (2) the author Theodore Dreiser and (3) to the sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim A. Sorokin.
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