All Better

Image“This is the doctor, she’s going to make you feel all better,” countless moms have told their children as I try to examine them.  As a new attending physician, this statement weighs heavily on me.  Will I actually be able to make them feel better?  Our hospital’s latest marketing slogan is “All Better,” which suggests that it is my job to make this come true.  The last mom who promised her child this came in with a viral syndrome.  I was able to make the diagnosis, but unfortunately there was no treatment to be doled out and the only promise I could fulfill was that I expected him to improve in 3-5 days.  While I felt bad for the child, I think I felt worse for the mom because I had failed holding up her promise to her child.  Fortunately, there are many more cases where I am able to provide an answer and remedy, proving a mom right that the doctor really can make you feel well again.

The first time that my son fell and looked to me for comfort, I felt the magical power of being a mom.  Without any special skills or tools, other than hugs and kisses, I am able to soothe bruises, mend abrasions, and rejuvenate the spirit.  When I know his injury is minor, I am overjoyed to scoop him up give him hugs, and let him dry his tears and sniffles on my shoulder.  I am mom.  I am the one person who has the birthright of this role, but I work daily to maintain this privilege. There are few other roles in life other than mother that give you such an entitlement.  I have the fortune though of filling this role at home and at work.  The same way that my son looks to me for comfort, relief, and cure, children coming into my office have the same expectations.  However, when a recent fall landed us in the Emergency Department for stitches, I had to focus on my role as mom and not doctor, and like all the moms who come to see me, I promised my son that the doctor would fix it.  While I knew I could have done the procedure myself, I enjoyed being the one who wasn’t causing him to cry but rather letting him know he was safe and loved.  When the doctor was done and I kissed the salty tears off his face, I found myself saying, “now you are all better.”  And we both were.

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  1. You shouldn’t discount the effect that just seeing the “doctor who will make you better” might have! Recent research makes it pretty clear that the placebo effect is an important part of getting better, so whether you just tell the kid he’s on the way to better already, or suggest a little evening Tylenol as “medicine”, or whatever, you’re reinforcing the magical power of the boo-boo kiss and band-aid that get kids through all the scrapes and coughs they encounter everyday!

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