Daniel Esgardo Rangel Barón: Docsplaining – An Unfair Generalization of Physicians

Docsplaining is the subject of a recent Postgraduate Medical Journal viewpoint by Dr. John Launer. Docsplaining, as described, is an endemic issue that characterizes physicians as condescending and uncaring actors in their communication with patients. 

This paper is worth reading if for nothing else than to illustrate the lens through which some physicians view their peers. 

Doctor bashing as social media’s latest spectator sport

I found the piece insulting but somehow not surprising. Bashing doctors, after all, is the social web’s latest spectator sport.

Twitter’s own physician community includes some who seem to take pleasure in reminding us of just how broken we are as physicians and humans. Dramatic displays of faux humility suggesting ‘we must do better’ serve more as a trite reflection on the users own facade of enlightenment than anything truly constructive. Public self-flagellation and the exaggerated disclosure of our professional failures serve to counter the guilt of perceived privilege.

So concerning docsplaining, Twitter’s groupthink would suggest that we concede and retweet Launer’s new term to support just how universally disrespectful doctors are.

But you won’t find me on this sorry bandwagon. 

Physicians have room for improvement

There are many things that doctors could do better as individuals and as a profession. There are those who would benefit from insight into their own attitude, tone and approach with patients. Continuing education, patient/peer feedback should be part of our professional development. And like Launer I have at times been critical of the trajectory of our profession and the trends adopted by some of my peers.

But while I feel for those who have had unpleasant experiences with doctors, to characterize the communication style of physicians in this way is an insulting generalization.

Many doctors defy the docsplaining stereotype

Despite these generalizations, I can speak only to the dedication and compassion of my co-workers. I can tell you what they bring to the exam room every day. As a mentor to many of them, I see their efforts to defy the perverse stereotype perpetuated in Launer’s viewpoint. I can point you to colleagues who have built careers out of the kind of human connection that he perhaps has never seen. 

In the kangaroo court of public dialog the predictable response to my criticism will be to position me as a perpetrator of docsplaining. Our call-out culture dictates that as a critic of his claims I become the very doctor Launer describes. But if you spend time on this site you’ll find situations, stories and solutions carefully documented that counter the suggestion that docsplaining is every physician’s modus operandi. Perhaps what you read here may help to restore your faith in the motivations of some doctors. 

If you’re prone to doctor bashing, it may be time to take stock. Many of us are doing a better job than some want you to believe.

If you like this post you might like the Doctoring 101, Slow Medicine and Patient Experience Archives. Tags at the very bottom of every post will help you navigate to similar material on the site. Enjoy!

Photo by Slim Emcee (UG) the poet Truth_From_Africa_Photography on Unsplash – Slightly modified

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