A common phrase you see on inspirational posters is “sing like nobody’s listening, dance like nobody’s watching.”
In medicine, it should be “speak as if everyone is recording, behave as if everyone is filming.”
In this day and age, you’d think that would be obvious. Every few hours there’s a viral video of someone getting upset, then losing their temper and saying something most of us would regret. A few years ago it would be a private matter, but today things are rapidly spread over Facebook and Twitter. Even if it’s entirely false, that doesn’t matter. It’s easy for anyone with a smartphone and apps to edit the clip to make it entirely different from what really happened. People go with their first reaction. By the time the facts come out, they’ve moved on and don’t care about the truth.
Occasionally, I get a request to record what I’m saying. In most cases I decline, and never allow myself to be filmed. I do this because anything can be altered, and unless I go to the effort to record it myself, I have no way to prove who’s telling the truth. So it’s easier just to not do it at all.
Unfortunately, this is often taken as “proof” of me trying to hide something. I’m certainly not. Being open and honest with patients is always something I focus on. But the truth of what happened in a 30- to 60-minute visit can be misconstrued in an edited, and possibly altered, sound bite of 5-10 seconds. People who want to do such things have their own motives and aren’t interested in reason or honesty.
Doctors, like everyone else, are susceptible to human emotions and reactions, but a big part of the job is keeping them controlled and hidden when working with patients. It’s the best way to make reasoned decisions and work with someone who’s frightened, angry, or irrational.
If you find yourself losing the battle to stay in control, sometimes it’s good to remember that your words and actions could be being recorded and posted on Facebook in an hour, whether you permitted it or not. Because you don’t want to learn the hard way.
Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.