Of all the skills a successful doctor must possess, neurologist Angela Hardwick (CSH ’00) ranks communication at the top of her list. Despite the challenging nature of the field, Hardwick also advises those interested in becoming doctors to stay the course.
The hardest part is making sure you understand exactly what the patient is experiencing and what the patient is trying to tell you. They might say, “My arm hurts.” But an arm to some people could mean their hand, forearm, upper arm or the entire arm. People all communicate a little bit differently, and I love trying to sort out what they’re saying because I love chatting with my patients.
Be sure to communicate clearly so the patient isn’t confused by a bunch of medical terms and weird-sounding medications. Make sure that you are speaking the same language because if you don’t communicate well, their treatment probably is not going to go well.
Try not to let that self-doubt creep in. It’s important to have people around you to give you encouragement and keep you grounded. You have to have quite a bit of patience and a desire to care for others more than yourself. Try to treat each patient how you would want your loved ones to be treated—especially remember that when patients and their families are behaving in ways you find difficult or frustrating.
It takes a lot of study and work—I still have to read articles and go to conferences to make sure I’m on the cutting edge of neurology—but if I could go back and talk to the Angela who was just getting started, I would tell her to remain positive. It’s worth it.