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BCarlyle's avatar

Do patients think that surgeons are generally less congenial as compared to other physicians?

Asked by BCarlyle (372points) June 27th, 2009

From what I have observed, many physicians(non-surgeon) think that surgeons are jerks and are arrogant. Do patients generally feel the same way? Does anyone have anectodal evidence to support or refute the idea that surgeons come across as jerks?

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15 Answers

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I haven’t had a surgeon I’ve met so far who hasn’t been a wonderful person to me. My general physician on the other hand is kind of a tepid personality but I know it’s his work demeanor because when he’s socialized with my family then he’s been very warm.

juwhite1's avatar

I believe so. It takes a great deal of arrogance to cut into another human being and repair what nature or accidents have done. I don’t think that arrogance is a bad thing… I want my surgeon to have a great deal of confidence, but that does come with less people skills on average, than say, a family medicine doctor. Surgeons are in for the adrenaline rush to some extent… they want to cut, fix, and move on to the next case. They are also trained to detach from the emotion of a situation to help them focus on the next, right thing to do from a logical, scientific perspective. I’m not saying they aren’t good people by any means, and outside of the surgical suite, many are very kind and compassionate people, but if they let that interfere with their surgical practice, the outcome would often be devastating.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

I can only say anecdotally that my mom and I have both generally had more bad experiences with surgeons than with other types of physicians. Sometimes it seems like they’re not really listening to what you’re saying, for example several times my mom has advised them she was allergic to certain medications, and they tried to give them to her anyway. Another time a surgeon put a syringe on the floor, and then attempted to use it on me. Obviously that didn’t go over very well, and he didn’t seem to see what the problem was. I think that’s what I’ve noticed the most. Any doctor can make a mistake, (or any person, of course, not just doctors) but with the surgeons, in my experience, it seems like they’re a lot less likely to care.

hug_of_war's avatar

I think surgeons by the nature of what they have to do are usually more conceited and have a harder time relating to patients. I also think those who want to be surgeons are more likely to love the slicing and cutting but aren’t as into the doctor-patient relationship, and see it as an annoying but necessary part of the job. (Again, all just generally speaking).

Harp's avatar

I spent quite a bit of time with my Mom while she was in intensive care, and the surgeon was by far the least congenial of the myriad medical personnel. My sense is that they are used to being in a position of complete control and authority in the operating theater. I can see how that would color their interactions outside of it as well.

Darwin's avatar

I have known a number of surgeons (thanks to my husband’s health) and most of them have been quite congenial. However, almost every single one was ADD, mildly OCD, very driven, and with a low tolerance for folks who don’t get it the first time.

I have only known two who were real arrogant s.o.b.s (one cardiac surgeon and one orthopedic surgeon) and they were very good surgeons, with a very high success rate, otherwise they would have lost their privileges for their behavior.

The absolute worst doctors I have ever met have generally been gynecologists.

chyna's avatar

@Darwin I am fortunate enough to finally have a good gynecologist now. She listens to me where as the male gyno’s I’ve had just didnt seem to think bleeding for 20 to 25 days a month was a big deal.

casheroo's avatar

@Darwin I completely agree about the gynecologists. They aren’t very nice outside their jobs either.

I’ve had great experiences with surgeons. My ENT was a little abrupt, but only on the day of surgery. I think he was getting into surgery mode or whatever, so I just brushed his weirdness off, since he usually wasn’t like that. I imagine when you’re about to cut someone open, risking their life, you have to make sure you are in the right mindset.
My favorite doctor ever would have to be my other surgeon. He was great before my surgery, and every visit I’ve had to him. I’v never met a kinder doctor than him.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

That sounds like the stereotypes presented every week on Scrubs.

In reality, many Doctors act a little differently than the average Joe because the average Joe doesn’t have the relationship with death that doctors do, surgical or otherwise.

Zaku's avatar

Surgeons are scarier because they take people apart with sharp implements, and it’s easier to imagine scary things about that.

However my fortunately so-far limited experience with one oral surgeon was that I was deathly afraid of what he was going to do (remove wisdom teeth) but he was very nice and although he had limited time to chat, was committed to making sure I had any questions answered. When he made my “oh no I’m gonna die!” surgery into a warm fluffy cloud unconscious reality, he became one of my favorite people. ;-) (If anyone wants a recommendation for a nice oral surgeon in Seattle, let me know.)

The other doctor’s I’ve known have mostly been pretty nice, too. The one I remember as being horrible was my dentist as a child – he didn’t believe me that the pain-killers he’d given me hadn’t worked yet. Made me afraid of dentistry for decades.

EmpressPixie's avatar

That is certainly the attitude reflected in Scrubs. We have very little contact with surgeons, hopefully, so attitudes may be based a bit on pop culture, even unintentionally.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I’ve had nothing but good experiences with the few surgeons I’ve had to deal with. And the one who “slit my throat (I’ve had half a thyroid removed)” was a complete and total (married) hottie. Out of all my other doctors and specialists over the years, I’ve had only one non-brusque GP. He stopped taking insurance, though, so I had to find a new GP. :/

scamp's avatar

Doctors in any field can be either arrogant or patient and caring. It’s a personality thing more than a specialty thing in my opinion. Surgeons may seem more detached because they don’t spend as much time with their patients. They diagnose the problem, then do surgery and a few follow ups, and the relationship ends there.

Primary care doctors see patients more often and therefore has a better chance to get to know them. I think arrogance is more of a personality flaw rather than specialty choice when it comes to doctors.

In any field you can find doctors with an “I’m the doctor, so therefore you know nothing complex,” just as you can find someone you’d like to adopt into your own family because they are kind hearted and take the time to listen to your concerns and gently explain things to you. I think age and length of time in the field aslo plays a part in bedside manner.

My preference for choosing a doctor in any field is one who has been in practice long enough to be comfortable in what he is doing, but not afraid to admit that even he or she can make a mistake. After all, doctors like us are only human.

Supacase's avatar

I think they have to be more distant and depersonalize you a bit in order to slice into you. They need to think about you as a case, not a person, to keep the emotions out.

I do think there is an arrogance involved, though. People who are not confident rarely put themselves in the position of risking someone’s life even if the ultimate goal is to help/save them.

Personally, I know an orthopaedic surgeon who is very nice. She is reserved and could come across cold. She isn’t, but that might not come through in the timeframe of your surgical care.

cak's avatar

I’ve only had one surgeon that I didn’t care for. I found him too cold, too detached and too uncaring. When a doctor delivers serious news and walks out, without really allowing for questions, to me, that’s just being a jerk!

I just had surgery, last Tuesday. My surgeon, though a bit odd, was wonderful. He even took the time to talk to my husband and show him the damage that he was trying to repair. I really appreciated the fact that he took the time with my husband and then again, with me, even though I’m fairly certain I wasn’t fully aware of what was going on.

Not all surgeons are the same! :)

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