UGH… Doctors…Um Practitioners…Please Listen To My Story! …..The Lost Art Of Active Listening

My lower back pain was so excruciating I must have visited the ED over a hundred times in one year! All they would do was give me pain meds, until the doctors started to call me a “drug seeker!” One day, my skin color was grey and I could hardly move. My family called 911. I was later diagnosed with a near fatal kidney disease.


-A Girl Who Almost Lost Her Kidney



This past weekend I ran into a young woman who was speaking under her breath about all the food that she had eaten at one specific hospitals cafeteria. She mentioned she was such a regular in that cafeteria that people thought she worked there. In reality, she kept getting misdiagnosed. She was called a “drug seeker” for her frequent visits to the ED.


I asked her to tell me her story. I listened as she recounted her tale, unfortunately the ED doctors declined to listen to her. She told me that she knew when the doc’s looked at her chart. Their body language would change. Their facial expressions contorted with disgust as they wrote orders, sent her home and denied her treatment. Denied, until she was toxic and in danger of loosing her kidney!


Fortunately she was treated in time. Both kidneys healthy and intact! She was lucky!


I come across patients like her all the time. Complaints of Doctors and health care practitioners not listening to their story. Judging or misdiagnosing them! But who is to blame? Our society which is focused on social media rather than social interactions? Our healthcare system which allows a 10-15 minute patient visit time limit?


The answer is both!


Our society is so obsessed with texting and Facebook, that the art of conversation is becoming extinct! Healthcare practitioners are bombarded with patient quotas for the day that they have no time to listen to their patients!


What’s the solution?


My father once gave me ‘sage’ advice. He said: “You talk too much! You need to listen more!” It’s interesting…I took his advice and started to listen! To my patients, my friends, and people around me in general. Yes, at first it was hard! I love to talk! So, I had to literally stick my tongue to the roof of my mouth and practice the art of active listening!


Over the phone I would let potential clients or partners talk and tell me their stories. I could hear in their voice that no one had let them go on for so long. It kind of was like letting a canary sing that got their voice back. With my patients, I could see it in their eyes a sense of being “heard” and “validated!”


As technology takes over the world the human, the art of conversation is becoming a lost art. No one speaks to people on the street. No one has time. It’s important for us to spend the ‘time” to just stop and listen. Our society’s mental health is dependent upon it!