A close relative recently underwent hip replacement at the Texas Orthopedic Hospital in Houston’s Texas Medical Center. She raved about her surgeon, Dr Richard Kearns. I had the opportunity to sit by her bed while he made his evening rounds (he didn’t know I was a physician until we were introduced at the end of his visit).
These are the qualities seem to make him successful:
He bridged the technical gap that often separates patient and surgeon. He used carefully chosen language and examples the average person can understand.
- Transparent. During his post-op visit we learned something about his family, his kids and his morning routine.
- Patient and respectful. He visited for 20 minutes but as far as I could tell he would have stayed there all night had there been questions.
This guy loves what he does. Had the conversation stayed on the recent advances of implantable joints we probably never would have gotten rid of him.
Of course these qualities won’t cover technical incompetence in a surgeon. But the capacity to function both as a noted joint surgeon while simultaneously possessing the skill to make a frightened 65-year-old woman thoroughly comfortable is the sweet spot.
In the end it was cool to see a good relationship work.
The health infosphere is filled with vitriolic banter of unfortunate encounters with physicians. Had this story involved a bad outcome or a humiliating bedside experience I suspect this post would be retweeted, referenced, and held up as another example of all that’s wrong with our system. Unfortunately the blessing of good work and a good relationship between a doctor and a patient just isn’t newsworthy.
But sometimes it’s just as important to hear about what works as what doesn’t.